TAMPA — Oscar Luis Tasse always carried a photo of the family he left behind in Cuba. His dream was to bring his mother and his younger brother to start a new life in Tampa.
Tasse, 32, had reached the Florida coast just eight months ago after a harrowing voyage by sea in a boat.
He died early Feb. 26 in a crash on the Howard Frankland Bridge after a driver in a Ford sedan struck the back of a Chevrolet sport utility vehicle, killing Tasse, a passenger and critically injuring the driver.
The Florida Highway Patrol identified the Ford driver as Alexander J. Hoffman, 29, who was charged with DUI, DUI damage to property, DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. In 2020, Hoffman had a DUI arrest in Hillsborough County, records show.
Tasse died at the scene. The driver of that vehicle suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized in critical condition.
Edgar Matos, the victim’s stepbrother, was heartbroken when he found out about Tasse’s death.
“We can’t believe it,” said Matos, 25, during an interview with the Tampa Bay Times from Cuba. “Oscar was the most charismatic and joyful person I have ever met. He was the best son and friend in the world. He was my role model.”
Last May, Tasse and five other Cubans crossed the Straits of Florida in a small boat that capsized before reaching the shores of Golden Beach, in Miami-Dade County.
Friends in Tampa say Tasse wanted to learn fast and be part of the community. He was also determined to study, improve his English, and make new friends in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
His family in Cuba was very proud of his accomplishments and the fact that he was working at a couple of hotels in Tampa.
Keyler Lara, a close friend of Tasse’s, described him as a kind and hardworking human being. He was active in sports, especially soccer, and liked to go fishing on the weekends.
“He never said ‘No’ to his friends and family,” said Lara. “Oscar was loved by everyone. At only 32 years old, he left Cuba trying to find a better future, a new path, for himself and his family.”
Tasse’s friends created a GoFundMe page last week to repatriate Tasse’s ashes to his native Cuba. By Friday afternoon, the initiative had raised more than $9,000 of the $5,000 goal.
Edy Garcia, one of the organizers, said Tasse always had a smile, a greeting and a joke to share. He said Tasse loved to dance and sing and was “the soul of the party.”
“He had so much left to do in this life, and it was all taken away in one night,” Garcia said. “He had only been here for eight months. His purpose was to thrive and work endlessly to have his mother and brother by his side, which he could not achieve.”
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In Cuba, Tasse’s family hopes to organize a ceremony to celebrate his life and commitments. Then, his ashes will be scattered in a river in the city of Baracoa, his hometown, located on the eastern tip of the island.
“Oscar taught us the value of friendship, and we will live to thank him a thousand times over for allowing us to be a part of his life,” Matos said. “It’s going to be difficult to say goodbye.”