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Man dies in one-car crash on slick road

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

The 25-year-old former Marine swerved off the road and crashed into a tree.

As a birthday gift, Mauricio Suarez planned to take his father to lunch Sunday.

Instead, the father spent the day mourning the loss of his only son, who died early Sunday in a one-car accident on a slick road in Carrollwood Village.

"He was a beautiful person," Eduardo Suarez said of his son as he awaited the arrival of relatives coming to Tampa. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Suarez, a 25-year-old former U.S. Marine, skidded about 4 a.m. while driving north on South Village Drive near Lowell Road. He drove into the median and then swerved. The left rear hit one tree before the car crashed head-on into another tree.

Suarez was wearing a shoulder strap but no lap belt, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Rod Reder. Investigators think he was driving too fast on the curvy road, which may have been wet because of the median sprinklers, Reder said.

He may have been driving home. The accident occurred about a mile or two from his house at 15811 Countrybrook St.

"We have a tremendous amount of crashes on that street," Reder said.

Suarez was dead when Fire Rescue arrived, said Reder. But Suarez apparently did not die on impact.

Eduardo Suarez said deputies told him his son called Fire Rescue.

"They think he called 911 because he had his cell phone," Suarez said.

Mauricio Suarez, a 1993 Hillsborough High School graduate, was an outgoing person who married his sweetheart and joined the Marine Corps, his father said.

"He loved the Marines," said Suarez, who turned 61 Wednesday. "I tried to convince him to go to the Air Force but he said, "No, to be a man you've got to go to the Marine Corps.' "

After four years in the Marines, Suarez was honorably discharged. During a six-month stint with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he helped Americans and other foreigners escape war-torn Bosnia before going to Africa.

"He saw a lot of dead people, but he was not injured," his father said.

In November, Mauricio Suarez began working as a customer service representative for CapitalOne in Tampa, his father said. He left the Marine Corps to be closer to his 6-year-old son, Andreas, who lives with his mother in North Carolina. Suarez and the mother, Sanna, are divorced.

Eduardo Suarez said his son talked about becoming a supervisor. He would have celebrated his 26th birthday next Monday.

"He was building his life again outside the Marine Corps," Suarez said. "It's a big loss."

_ Josh Zimmer can be reached at (813) 226-3474.