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Steinbrenner students mourn classmate’s death

By Anastasia Dawson
Published: October 6, 2013 Updated: October 6, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Frank Vasquez and Kaylee Baer were the victims of a hit-and-run crash in Pasco County. MARISSA HIBEL

Hundreds gathered at Steinbrenner High School on Sunday night to mourn the loss of a 17-year-old student who died after a hit-and-run crash on Friday that also critically injured his girlfriend.

Frank Vasquez, a 17-year-old junior on the wresting team at Steinbrenner, had a smile for everyone and no enemies, friends said.

“He was just an incredible person to be friends with,” said friend Zach Kennedy, who started hanging out with Frank in the seventh grade. “He was like a brother to me.”

Zach and other friends witnessed the horrifying crash that killed Frank.

They had come from a Keith Urban concert and were parked at the end of a rural road.

Frank and Kaylee Baer, 16, were in a Nissan SUV at the end of Sunlake Drive, just north of County Line Road in Lutz.

John West, 23, was driving north on Sunlake Drive about 12:31 a.m. in his Chevrolet Blazer when he slammed into the right rear of the SUV, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Both vehicles overturned and West managed to get out and run away but turned himself in at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, troopers said. Charges have yet to be filed, troopers said.

Frank and Kaylee were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Frank died on Sunday and Kaylee was listed in serious condition.

“I was lucky to spend every last minute with Frank right by Kaylee and Jesse’s side,” said Kaylee’s friend Marissa Hibel, who also witnessed the crash with Frank’s friend Jesse Primmer. “It blows my mind how the driver could walk away completely fine. Nobody should ever have to witness something like this.”

Kaylee and Frank started dating at the end of the school year, said Marissa, who spoke during the vigil.

“He truly was the life of the party and it was so clear how much Kaylee really meant to him,” she said.

Hundreds circled the football field during the vigil, holding hands in silence. They released balloons and a luminary as friends held each other and cried.

“I’ll always remember our trips, going to Daytona Beach or wherever we had enough money to go,” said friend Jesse Primer.

His friends said they will miss his bearded smile.

“He loved his beard more than anything,” said Zach, “and Friday before the accident he said ‘This is definitely the last time I’ll ever shave my beard again.’”