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Night of drinking ends in fatal Zephyrhills crash, but who was driving?

One man died and his best friend was seriously injured. A week later, troopers are trying to determine who was at the wheel.
Alex Hiscock, 25, left, and Derrick Beers, 23, were riding in a pickup truck Sept. 8 after a night out when it crashed into a tree. Beers died from his injuries. Hiscock was taken to a hospital in serious condition. He was later released with a neck brace and arm cast. [[COURTESY OF ALEX HISCOCK] | Alex Hiscock]
Published Sep. 17
Updated Sep. 17

ZEPHYRHILLS — Alex Hiscock doesn’t remember the crash that killed his best friend, just waking up afterward to see a state trooper standing over his hospital bed.

He drifted back into unconsciousness until he awoke again briefly to find his dad at his side.

There, he learned through a news report that Derrick Beers, 23, had died after Hiscock’s truck plowed into a tree around 4:15 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 8.

The news report also said that Hiscock, 25, was the driver — and that the crash was alcohol related.

“If I did drive, then I take responsibility for it, but everybody’s telling me I wasn’t,” Hiscock said.

Their large circle of friends in Zephyrhills insists Beers was driving, not Hiscock. They all keep up with one other through a Snapchat group, and Beers’ last post was a video showing him at the wheel about 15 minutes before the crash, the friends said.

Friends and relatives of Derrick Beers, who died in a crash Sept. 8, gather three days later at Zephyrhills Park, one of the places Beers liked to skateboard. They're holding their thumbs up in tribute to Beers, who broke both his thumbs on the Fourth of July when a mortar blew up. [PAIGE FRY | Paige Fry]

More than a week later, the Florida Highway Patrol still hasn’t determined who who was driving. No charges have been filed. Investigators are aware of the video, Sgt. Steve Gaskins told the Tampa Bay Times by email.

Whoever is responsible, Beers was killed just as he was planning to turn over a new leaf, friends said.

Earlier that night, during dinner at Chili’s, Beers asked friend Chase Ramer if he could borrow some work boots because he was starting a new job Monday.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘This is going to be my last weekend partying.’ And that’s literally the last thing he said to me and then he walked away,” said Ramer, 27.

Hiscock and Beers drove to the Dallas Bull, a club about 20 miles straight south from Zephyrhills on U.S. 301 in Tampa, Hiscock said.

They sipped Bud Light from a keg in plastic cups, danced, and met up with a couple of women. Hiscock drank more than Beers, he said, but he doesn’t remember how much.

They ended the night at a Waffle House. Beers stepped outside at one point, emotional about his desire to see his 3-year-old son Zayn. One of the women went to comfort him. That’s the last thing Hiscock remembers before seeing the trooper standing over him, he said.

At some point, Hiscock and Beers got into Hiscock’s 1998 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck. They were headed back north on U.S. 301 when the driver overcorrected once, overcorrected again, ran off the east shoulder near State Road 56, and hit a tree, troopers said.

Beers was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died of his injuries, troopers said.

Hiscock was taken to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries. He spent several days there, always with one of his friends or family by his side.

He was sent home with a neck brace and a cast on his left arm.

As he waits for answers, Hiscock thinks about repairs he made to his truck weeks earlier, wondering if he had needed to make more repairs, he said. He runs through scenarios, imagining how the crash might have been prevented — how he might have helped keep his friend alive.

“The not knowing is what messes with my head,” Hiscock said.

To honor Beers, the circle of friends shares stories about him when they get together from time to time. At one gathering, Beers’ roommate Gage Smith, 23, used one of his friend’s favorite catchphrases, “Pssh, unreal,” and recounted how Beers said it on the Fourth of July when a mortar blew up and broke both his thumbs.

Beers swam out to a buoy in the water and back the next day before he realized his thumbs were broken. Soon afterward, he had casts put on.

“He always stayed positive,” Smith said.

Said Hiscock, “It just sucks that he’s gone at such a young age. There definitely was never a dull moment when Derrick was around.”


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