BROOKSVILLE — Kenneth Young Sr. sensed the danger as soon he and his son crested the hill on WPA Road and saw two Honda Civics barrelling toward them.
He told his son to slow down. Kenneth Jr. was driving the pair to the store just before 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Youngs slowed almost to a stop in the southbound lane and watched as the Hondas, heading north — one white, one black — drove side by side for a moment at what Young estimated to be 60 mph. Just as the elder Young started to tell his son to get off the road, the white Civic tried to cut back into the northbound lane, in front of the black car.
The Civics made contact and spun out of control onto the northbound shoulder, north of Granat Street. The black car slammed into a tree. The driver of the white car regained control and sped south.
"He didn't even come to a stop," Young Sr. recalled Friday morning of the driver of the white car. "He passed right by his friend."
Young rushed over to the black car and dialed 911. The force of the impact collapsed the car's roof so that Young could only see the driver's neck. He called out, got no response, and reached in to feel for a pulse.
"He died instantly," Young said.
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Jonathan Parker loved cars and dirt bikes and going fast. The 18-year-old loved his new-to-him 1994 Honda Civic, too.
His buddy, 20-year-old Paul Snyder, had one, too, and the longtime friends, who lived within a mile of each other, liked to put the cars through their paces.
The friends had already raced by Snyder's house at least once Thursday evening, heading south, Snyder's mother, Denise Scarberry, recalled Friday afternoon. On the way back, Snyder thought the pair would turn into his driveway at the crest of a hill on WPA Road, but Parker kept going, Scarberry said, so her son did, too.
Moments later, Snyder pulled into the driveway in a panic.
"Go get Parker; go get Parker," he told his mother and uncle.
They drove the short distance north to where Parker's car had come to rest, Scarberry said. His uncle walked up to the driver's side, and when Snyder started to do the same, his uncle told him not to come any further. Snyder left, but didn't go home.
"He got scared," Scarberry said. "He was freaking out."
Investigators eventually showed up at the house, got Snyder on the phone and convinced him to come home, Scarberry said.
The accident was still under investigation Friday, and charges against Snyder are pending, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Snyder hadn't had a valid license for months, records show. He was cited in Hernando in August 2010 for careless driving and failing to show proof of insurance.
Snyder was arrested in Brooksville in 2008 and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. He pleaded guilty and adjudication was withheld, records show. He was arrested again in 2010 on a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
Scarberry said her son is devastated.
"I can't imagine what the other family is going through, but he is taking it really hard," she said. "They were good friends."
Parker, who went by Jon or his last name, lived on Kibler Lane, less than a mile west of the crash site. No one answered the door when a Tampa Bay Times reporter knocked on Friday morning. Other family members couldn't be reached.
• • •
Snyder and Parker had attended Parrott Middle School together, then both wound up at what was then called the STAR Center, the district's alternative school for students with behavior issues.
Snyder left school at age 13, his mother said. Parker stayed at STAR, but left in 2010 after an altercation with another student, said his longtime friend and former classmate Andrea Proctor.
At roughly 5 feet tall, Parker was a target for teasing, and he had a quick temper, but never disrespected girls or elders, said Proctor, 19.
"He was the funniest, smartest kid ever," she said. "He was always the class clown, always made everyone laugh."
He had been arrested several times since 2006, all in Hernando County, mostly for minor charges such as petty theft, misdemeanor battery and criminal mischief. One of the more serious run-ins with authorities came just last month, when he was arrested and charged with two counts of felony burglary.
Parker's father, John, who also enjoyed motorcycle racing, died in 2010, and his son wasn't quite the same after that, Proctor said.
"He was definitely more depressed," she said.
But Parker had goals. He talked about joining the military, according to Proctor and Sharon Swonger, a former teacher at STAR. He needed to earn a high school diploma and 15 college credits to be eligible for the Navy, so he had enrolled in adult education classes.
"He had a great heart," Swonger said. "Any test I gave that kid, he'd have it done in 10 minutes, and it would be perfect."
On Friday morning, a makeshift wooden cross with Parker's name on it leaned against the scarred, towering pine tree at the crash site. A red candle had been placed on the ground.
Its flame still flickered.
Staff writer John Woodrow Cox and news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]