Bloomingdale High School students are planning a candlelight vigil tonight at 9:30 p.m. to remember a 16-year-old student killed in a car crash on Natures Way Jan. 2.
Already, a memorial is being set up next to the tree at Natures Way and Golf Meadow Boulevard where the Bloomingdale student lost control of his car at 9:25 p.m. and tributes are pouring in on a RIP Zach McCarthy Facebook page, which has more than 1,500 "likes."
In addition to the candlelight vigil at the crash site, teens are invited to gather at the ROC Center at St. Stephen Catholic Church, 5049 Bell Shoals Rd., Valrico, from 5 to 9 p.m., to mourn together. A prayer service for the family is scheduled at the McCarthy family's church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 12404 Boyette Rd., Riverview, at 7 p.m.
McCarthy, a resident of the Preston Woods subdivision in Bloomingdale East, was a member of the Bloomingdale Ambassadors choral group and the Rajun Bulls Band where he played the trumpet.
"It's just really sad," said Bloomingdale student Emilie McCall. He was very well liked and was always very nice to me. It's just too soon to have lost him."
Miguel Oquendo, private voice teacher and assistant chorus teacher at Bloomingdale High, said he's still reeling from the shock of learning about McCarthy's death.
After expressing an interest in joining his church's music ministry, McCarthy began taking private voice lessons from Oquendo.
"Zach was one of the nicest kids, always a smile on his face. I never saw him angry or upset," said Oquendo. "He was just an amazing young man and he touched a lot of lives."
Oquendo, who plans to attend tonight's vigil, said he is heartened at the way the students have gathered to support one another and pay tribute to the teen. "
"At times like this, it brings everyone close as a family," he said. "Even kids from other schools, who never even knew Zach, are showing their support. It's amazing."
Especially sobering for the students is the knowledge that McCarthy was a careful driver, said Oquendo.
"He wasn't a reckless kid," he said. "He was very close to his parents and just wanted to be a good person and a good Christian. It's so unfair for this to happen to him."
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, McCarthy was traveling west near the intersection of Natures Way and Golf Meadow Boulevard when he lost control of his 2000 Pontiac Grand Am for "an unknown reason." The car spun out and its driver’s side door of the car struck a tree.
McCarthy was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he later died. McCarthy’s passenger, Michaela Faessler, 15, was not injured.
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