What should have been one of Tom McHugh's happiest weeks has turned tragic.
Pasco High's first-year football coach was excused from practice indefinitely to be with the youngest of his three daughters after she was severely injured in a car accident about 5 a.m. Sunday.
Brenna McHugh, 21, was driving her 2007 Hyundai sedan north on Old Pasco Road when she missed a turn and crashed into a tree, a Florida Highway Patrol report said.
She was wearing her seat belt, but had to be airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where she was still in intensive care Wednesday afternoon.
McHugh said his daughter suffered a concussion from her impact with the air bag, but did not suffer any broken bones. McHugh planned to attend his first fall practice this morning and expected his daughter to be moved from intensive care as early as today.
She showed significant improvement Wednesday with her ability to move around, talk and eat.
The FHP is still investigating the accident. No charges have been filed.
"You can't imagine how it feels to see your child in a situation like that," McHugh said. "It's been a torturous situation."
Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare, who hired McHugh as his first assistant to begin the Wildcats program in 1999 and has two daughters himself, visited the hospital Tuesday.
"It's a tough situation when I was sitting with Tom and Brenna," Castelamare said. "I got chills. It could be your daughter. You sense how serious it is because that's his little girl."
Castelamare said his players pray for Brenna and the McHugh family at every practice.
Pasco athletic director Jim Ward said the Pirates have a similar prayer after each of their practices.
"When something like this happens football and all this is not even close to being important," Castelamare said.
"All these other things we deal with are way down the list."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.