Douglas Chicarella is trained to save lives. On Friday, he found himself frighteningly close to having ended one.
The 26-year-old firefighter and emergency medical technician from Spring Hill was driving home from work in Pasco County when his car struck a 16-year-old bicyclist from behind on U.S. 19.
The boy went flying. Chicarella jumped out of his 1989 Ford Taurus and ran to the boy's side.
"That was the first thing he did," said Chicarella's father, Anthony. "At first, he thought he killed the boy."
The victim was identified as Elisha E. Clark of 8434 W Bradshaw St. in Homosassa Springs. He was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
Hospital officials wouldn't say what condition he was in Friday evening. The boy's parents requested that information be kept private.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Chicarella was driving north in the outside lane when his car drifted right and struck the northbound cyclist at 8:25 a.m. It was not known why the teenager was riding his bike through Hernando County.
The accident remained under investigation. No charges had been filed Friday.
Chicarella's parents, who discussed the accident with their son, disputed the FHP version. They said the cyclist swerved in front of Chicarella, and Chicarella tried unsuccessfully to avoid him.
Whoever was at fault, the situation was clearly one that an EMT would rather not be involved in. "It's something you do all day long _ try and save lives, and then something like this happens," said Anthony Chicarella.
Chicarella said his son assessed the injuries to Clark and tended to him while waiting for other emergency workers to arrive. He said his son was still shaken Friday evening and did not want to discuss the accident.
One of the first to the scene was a priest.
Monsignor John Scully is the pastor at St. Theresa Catholic Church, which is across the street from where the accident happened. Scully saw people gathered around the fallen boy and rushed over. He and the boy, who happened to be Catholic, said prayers together. Scully gave the boy the sacrament of the sick by making the sign of the cross over him and putting holy oil on his forehead and hands.
The priest said he regularly stops at accidents and comforts victims.
Scully said the boy was in extreme pain and appeared to have broken some bones. But the boy remained clearheaded and began to calm down after being given the sacrament, Scully said.
"He prayed with me beautifully," Scully said.