Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Raw grief at vigil for four USF students killed by wrong-way driver (w/video)

TAMPA — The four young men had died so suddenly, so violently, that no one quite knew what to say at Thursday's memorial.

There was talk about celebrating young lives, but raw grief overtook the gathering of about 1,000 people on a University of South Florida lawn. Friends, acquaintances — even strangers — passed tissue boxes while the men's family members filled the front rows, facing photos of each: Jobin Kuriakose, 21. Ankeet Patel, 22. Dammie Yesudhas, 21. Imtiyaz "Jim" Ilias, 20. They were killed early Sunday by a driver going the wrong way on Interstate 275.

The four men came from different cities, practiced different religions and planned different careers. But they were close friends and brothers of Sigma Beta Rho, a multicultural fraternity.

On Thursday, three dozen fraternity brothers attended the memorial all wearing black with green ties. The national fraternity president flew in for the ceremony.

Ilias' brother tried to tell the crowd about Jim, but he could not get the words out between sobs. Yesudhas' brother said simply, "I love you, bro," and then played Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the ukulele.

USF president Judy Genshaft told the crowd that the four will be getting honorary degrees. Friends shared good memories, relayed between tears.

There was Jobin, who loved dancing, even though his moves mainly involved simply jumping around. He had recently started listening to romantic Hindi songs. He was studying political science and wanted to be a lawyer.

There was Ankeet, the eldest, sometimes called "Grandpa" by his friends. He'd constantly talk to his sister about wanting to work one day for Goldman Sachs.

"Do you think the boss will hate it if I had a better suit than him?" Ankeet once asked.

There was Dammie, a brilliant man, double-majoring in math and mechanical engineering. He used to compete in chess when his family lived in London.

He was going to graduate this semester. He wanted to be an engineer.

There was Imtiyaz, who went by Jim. He leaves behind many siblings, including the youngest, a 6-year-old sister named Zahrah.

Sometimes she still asks, "When is Jimmy coming home?"

Patel's sister, Krupa Patel, said during her last phone conversation with her brother, she got a weird feeling that she should say "I love you," a phrase not usually shared between the siblings.

She didn't, she told the crowd. "And now I'll never get the chance to say it again," breaking down into sobs.

"I think about it all the time," she said. "So please tell the people you love that you love them because you never know when you'll get to say it again."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Four lives lost

Jobin Kuriakose, 21,

of Orlando

He was studying for the LSAT and aspired to be a lawyer. He loved dancing and was known for being energetic and outgoing.

Ankeet Patel, 22,

of Melbourne

Many remember Ankeet for his infectious smile. He wanted to be a businessman.

Dammie Yesudhas, 21,

of Melbourne

He was double-majoring in math and mechanical engineering and was going to graduate this semester. He was good at chess and admired for his intelligence.

Imtiyaz "Jim" Ilias, 20,

of Fort Myers

Jim came from a large, tight-knit family. Many of them traveled in from Fort Myers for Thursday's memorial.

Raw grief at vigil for four USF students killed by wrong-way driver (w/video) 02/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.