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BOY WAS STANDOUT STUDENT, LOVING SON

The 16-year-old Hillsborough High student died after being struck by lightning.

Samuel "Sammy" Santilli had two great loves: his family and soccer.

On his MySpace page, the 16-year-old posted a picture of himself taken the night of Hillsborough High's Homecoming. His father's arm is wrapped around him.

"My best friend in the world. My hero. My dad," Sammy wrote.

He dished out nicknames, played right wing and made people laugh in the classroom and on the soccer field. Today, those who loved him will gather at a funeral home to mourn his death as they prepare to say goodbye.

Sammy died Tuesday after he was struck by lightning on Treasure Island. The bolt knocked him unconscious on July 20, and he died later at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Lightning also struck his mother, Maureen Machajewski (pronounced Maha-yes-ski), 46, as they headed back to their hotel during an approaching thunderstorm. Machajewski, who was visiting from Texas, recovered from the strike.

Relatives did not respond to several requests for interviews, but some posted comments on a WTSP-Ch. 10 Web site.

"Thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers in this time of tragedy," wrote Mark Machajewski, who identified himself as Sammy's stepfather. "No words can express what I'm feeling or Sammy's father is feeling right now. A great weekend visit turn into turmoil is not what was to be expected."

Sammy lived with his father in a Seminole Heights neighborhood, just blocks from Hillsborough High, where he was a rising junior. The school's yearbook lists Sammy as a "standout.''

"He has little time to waste!" a description of him reads. "The 'Italian Stallion,' as his friends call him, has been on band for two years . . . his real passion is soccer."

Sammy played in the school band and planned on becoming a section leader. He was a member of both the varsity soccer team and the HC United soccer club team the Killer Rabbits.

In the yearbook, it said Sammy hoped to play soccer professionally.

Times researcher John Martin and staff photographer Daniel Wallace contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Remembering Sammy

Samuel "Sammy" Santilli's family will receive friends today between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Boza & Roel Funeral Home and again Saturday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. A service will take place Saturday, 1 p.m. at the funeral home, 4730 N Armenia Ave.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to All Children's Hospital, 801 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg, 33701.

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