NEW PORT RICHEY — Tim Little desperately wanted something to blame. If only there was a reason, an unforeseen circumstance, even a bad decision, maybe that would somehow make the grief easier for him and his family to bear.
There wasn't. One moment his teenage daughter, smart and attractive and full of energy was there, and the next she wasn't.
Courtney Lynn Little, 17, and Kimberlee Kathy Markou, 16, both River Ridge High School students, were killed in a car crash Tuesday afternoon in Pasco County.
Clutching a framed photograph of his daughter, Little fought through tears inside Dobies Funeral Home on Wednesday as he described Courtney.
“To say that she was beautiful and intelligent is an understatement,” said Little, an accreditation deputy in the Pasco Sheriff's Office's Detention Bureau. “There's no one to blame for this. There was nothing involved. There was no texting. She was smarter than that. It was just an accident in bad weather ... I don't know what I'm going to do without her.”
Courtney Little was driving a Chevrolet Aveo southbound on Moon Lake Road, south of Bethwood Avenue, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Markou was a passenger in the vehicle.
About 4:45 p.m., Little lost control of the car, which began to rotate and entered the northbound lane, the FHP said. The Aveo was struck on the passenger side by a Dodge Dakota driven by James William Butz, 53, of New Port Richey.
Little and Markou, each entering their senior year at River Ridge, died at the scene.
Butz and a passenger, 49-year-old Judith Ann Stein of New Port Richey, were taken to Hudson's Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in serious condition.
“She was driven,” Courtney Little's mother, Christine Gilmore, said. “And when I say driven, she took the SAT several times just because she wanted to keep getting better (scores). She pushed herself. Her senior year was loaded with Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment.
“She was the child that every parent wished they had and now she's gone.”
Tim Little and Gilmore expressed their condolences to the parents of Markou during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. The parents spoke for four minutes before leaving the room inside the funeral home.
Although the wreck remains under investigation, Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol said it was not raining at the time of the crash, but it had rained just before and the roads were wet.
“I have no doubt that a wet road can cause an accident, especially in a curve like that,” he said.
Tim Little called the stretch of Moon Lake Road where the crash took place as “notoriously dangerous” in rainy weather.
Courtney Little was a 3.5 grade point average student at River Ridge and participated in the Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, Interact Club, a service organization, and Splash Club, an environmental service group.
Markou, who also attained an unweighted 3.5 GPA, was in the Interact Club and French Honor Society.
Both girls also took Advance Placement courses for which they earned college credits, River Ridge principal Maria Swanson said.
“Obviously, when we work in education, we work in education because we love children and our job is to get them ready for college, career and life,” Swanson said. “And when we see something like this, it's heartbreaking. These were obviously girls who took it very seriously. They were serious students who took advantage of every opportunity they had in front of them and were right about to launch in a year and it's so sad to see that cut short.”