TAMPA — Michelle Renee Wells wanted her own form of transportation.
Until recently, the 36-year-old took the bus everywhere. Never a big fan of cars, she needed another option. In February, a green, black and white scooter caught her eye.
A careful driver, she fastened on a helmet and reflective vest every time she rode it, family members said.
On Friday night, as she made her way home from a visit with her sister, those extra precautions didn't help.
Wells was driving south on Nebraska Avenue about 8:50 p.m. when a blue Dodge van hit her from behind, Tampa police said.
She was ejected from the scooter near E 112th Avenue. Officers said she died at the scene. The blue Dodge van drove away before police arrived.
A witness spotted the parked van at Nebraska Avenue and E 109th Avenue, police said. When deputies arrived at the business parking lot, James R. Brennan, 49, of 3422 Crossing Drive unit 102, got out of the van and tried to run.
He was charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving with a suspended license.
For Wells' family, the pain is only deepened by how police say Brennan handled the situation.
"He just left her out there, not knowing whether she was dead or alive," said Tiara Clark, Wells' sister.
The oldest of three girls, Wells embraced her big sister status.
"She always looked out for me," Clark said. "She just always wanted to help others."
Wells planned on transforming that passion into a career. She had taken some classes at Hillsborough Community College and was working toward a degree in human resources.
"She had some issues accepting herself," Clark said. "And she wanted to use that experience to help other people."
Wells was a lovable person, said her mother, Hazel Clark, and she showed it.
Each time Wells left her mother's house, she made sure to say, "I love you."
And each night, when Wells made it home, she would call her mother just to check in.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2442.