TAMPA — Jacob “Jake” Weinert had a toddler son and a newborn daughter and a fiancee who loved him in Illinois.
To save money and reunite the family in Florida, Weinert worked as a forklift operator at a Tampa warehouse, said his fiancée, Izabel Sgiers. He had a roughly hour-long bike ride to work from the ranch where he was staying with friends, Sgiers said.
“He was working so we could be a family,” she said through tears. “He made sure he woke up early every day to make it to work.”
He didn't make it Tuesday.
Weinert was riding south in a marked bicycle lane on U.S. 301 just north of Sligh Avenue about 4:40 a.m. when the driver of a southbound pickup struck him from behind, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Weinert was mortally injured and died at the scene. The pickup driver didn’t stop.
Troopers were searching for the pickup and its driver Tuesday. The truck is white but investigators did not release more information Tuesday afternoon and were asking the public for help.
Weinert’s bike had a front light and no rear light, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, a Highway Patrol spokesman. A photo provided by the Highway Patrol shows the bike was also equipped with reflectors on the pedals and on at least one wheel.
Weinert was born in Illinois and raised in Lockport, a small city southwest of Chicago. He was patient and outgoing, a hard worker who loved bowling and disc golf, Sgiers said.
“He made friends with anyone and everyone,” she said.
Fifteen months ago, the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a son named Jasper. Weinert wanted a daughter, too, and three weeks ago, Sapphire was born.
Now they'll never know what an amazing father he was, Sgiers said.
“To the person who killed the love of my life, my best friend, my soulmate, you just took everything from me and my kids,” she said. “Nothing will ever be okay. I will make sure you rot in jail.”
Weinert’s brother Rob Pappalardo has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to return his remains to Illinois and support his family.
Troopers asked anyone with information on the crash to call the Highway Patrol at (813) 558-1800 or submit a tip through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 873-8477 or going to crimestopperstb.com.