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Music teachers found each other months before fatal Pinellas Park crash

To Deidre Hankins it felt like her son, Sean, might have finally found the one.

Months ago he reconnected with Caroline Sine, an old friend he once dated at the University of South Florida. They drifted apart but stayed on a similar path, becoming elementary school music teachers.

He lived and worked in Hillsborough County. She did the same in Pinellas. But they always carved out time for dates. They planned to go to a movie Saturday night.

Early Sunday morning, police said, a drunk driver speeding through a red light smashed into their car on Park Boulevard N.

Sean Hankins and Caroline Sine were rushed to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Deidre Hankins said her 36-year-old son remains in critical condition. He doesn't remember the crash.

He also doesn't know that Caroline Sine, 34, died Monday.

Deidre Hankins is not sure when, or how, she will tell him.

"They had such common interests. They were bubbly, vivacious, outgoing," she said. "They just seemed to complete each other."

TEACHERS HURT: One dies of injuries in Pinellas Park crash, another remains in critical condition

• • •

When Pinellas Park police officers arrived at the scene, they said Brice MacLeod, the driver accused of running the red light, had bloodshot eyes and breath that smelled of alcohol.

Police said MacLeod's 2016 Toyota Corolla drove through a "steady red light" and struck Sine's 2003 Toyota Camry about 1 a.m. at the intersection of Park and 40th Street N.

MacLeod refused to perform field sobriety tests, an officer wrote in the arrest report, but said he had a few drinks at dinner.

The 36-year-old St. Petersburg man was first arrested on two counts of driving under the influence with serious bodily injury. His bail was set at $20,000. A judge increased it to $50,000 on Monday.

Hours later, police reported that Sine died.

MacLeod now faces a charge of DUI manslaughter as well. His bail was raised to $175,005 on Monday, according to jail records.

Court records show that Brice MacLeod — whose first name is also spelled Bryce in social media — has a long history of traffic infractions. In 2006, records show, he was found guilty of DUI in Manatee County.

His family could not be reached for comment.

• • •

Deidre Hankins spent most of Monday at the hospital with her husband and son, keeping the TV off and his cell phone hidden. She didn't want him to learn about the crash on the news.

Sean Hankins teaches music at Miles and Shaw elementary schools in Hillsborough County. Sine taught the same subject in Pinellas County, rotating between Sexton, Blanton, Bay Point, Bay Vista and Pinellas Central elementary schools.

Deidre Hankins said her son showed a proclivity for music even before he could play it himself.

"He was enamored by the record player," she said. "Even his kindergarten teacher, before he started playing any instruments, said, 'The key for Sean is the record player.' "

When he was in middle school, Deidre Hankins said, her son saw the movie Hook. He heard a French horn in the soundtrack and decided that was the instrument he wanted to play.

Sean Hankins also played in a pop and rock band called "Bipolar" in Tampa. He split time between the bass, keyboard and vocals.

Sine sometimes made a guest appearance, belting out the lyrics to Heart's Barracuda.

"She would get up and sing that song," Deidre Hankins said, "and people would go wild."

Sine's family declined to speak to the media. The Pinellas Park Police Department said they asked for privacy.

In the classroom, Sine had a big personality and brought tremendous energy to her work, said Jeanne Reynolds, PreK-12 performing arts specialist for the Pinellas County School District.

"She just really wanted to make things great for her kids," Reynolds said. "She wanted to give her students every opportunity that she could."

Friends created an online fundraising page to help pay for her medical costs, and called her a trusted mentor to children and colleagues alike.

"What a blessing it was to have Caroline for my son's teacher," one donor wrote. "Her words of strength and encouragement he will carry with him always."

Another wrote: "During my first year as a teacher, Caroline frequently offered words of support and inspiration. I will think of her with every decision I make in my classroom this school year."

Deidre Hankins said Sine once told her that "she had never been happier" than when she was with Sean.

In the hospital, Sine's family told her the same thing.

"They're both very loving people, kind people, joyful people," Deidre Hankins said. "And a lot of that joy is gone."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Craig Pittman and Colleen Wright contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.