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Teen dies after Labor Day boating accident on Lake Seminole

Published Sep. 4, 2013

SEMINOLE — The teenagers filed into Keswick Christian School's chapel Tuesday evening, quietly crying and pausing to write on a white banner.

"Your sweet spirit will be missed," one girl scrawled with a green Sharpie. "I love you. See you in heaven, sweet girl."

On Monday, 10th-grade student Katie Yale, 15, was gravely injured in a boating accident on Lake Seminole. Katie died Tuesday morning.

"We are going to miss her smile," a parent wrote. "But we'll see it again in paradise."

Katie's family planned to spend Labor Day on the water. The teen was riding a tube with a friend, pulled by her father's center console boat, when they collided with a personal watercraft driven by Ryan Godcharles, 21, of Naples, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Yale's companion — Aubree Franz, 13, of St. Petersburg — suffered minor injuries, authorities said. Godcharles was not injured. The Sheriff's Office is still investigating the crash, which appears to have been an accident.

"As tragic as this is and as heartbroken as we are, we rejoice the fact that Katie is with her Lord and savior Jesus Christ, because of her personal relationship with him," said Keswick Christian School superintendent Nick Stratis, who helped guide a special prayer service Tuesday evening.

Katie's mother, Karen, is a guidance counselor at the school, located at 10101 54th Ave. N. Neither she nor Katie's father, Douglas, was available for comment. The couple has two other daughters.

Stratis, the family's spokesman, said the teen suffered serious internal injuries in the collision, including a punctured lung. He said Katie's family, which has deep roots in St. Petersburg, has seen an outpouring of support and love.

Counselors and local pastors were on campus to help students deal with the loss. Pastor Jerry Busby, who serves on the Keswick school board, said Katie was a blessing to everyone she met. "She was a joyful soul and a fun friend," he said at the Tuesday prayer service. "She was a follower of Jesus Christ."

Katie began cultivating her faith at an early age, said Stratis, who taught her last year in Bible class. She was inquisitive, he said, and not shy to explore issues of her faith, what the Bible meant to her life, and what to make of death and destruction. She was involved at her church, Park Street Baptist in St. Petersburg, and played volleyball and soccer, he said.

"This has shook the community," Stratis said. "Death at an early age is hard to put our arms around, even as adults. That's where our faith comes in."

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