Investigation into Cause of Bloomingdale Teen's Crash Continues

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said it could be several more weeks before investigators issue their report.

It could be several more weeks before Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office traffic investigators issue a final report on the cause of the crash that killed Bloomingdale High School student Zach McCarthy.

Detective Larry McKinnon, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said investigators are looking at all possible causes for the Jan. 2 crash on Natures Way.

"They're looking at what was going on inside the car at the time of the crash as well as what was occurring outside," said McKinnon.

The investigation will include interviews with passenger Michaela Faessler, 15, who was not injured in the crash, an assessment of the car's speed at the time of the crash, whether any other vehicle was involved and anything that may have distracted McCarthy at the time of the crash.

Although there is no evidence of drug or alcohol use, the sheriff's office also is awaiting the results of a toxicology report, said McKinnon.

McCarthy was traveling west near the intersection of Natures Way and Golf Meadow Boulevard when he lost control of his 2000 Pontiac Grand Am. The car spun out and its driver’s side door struck a tree. The 16-year-old was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he later died.

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A memorial of photos of the teen, stuffed animals, flowers and candles remain beneath the tree where McCarthy crashed, serving as a stark reminder for residents to heed the 30 mph speed limit on the road.

Nevertheless, Bloomingdale Community Resource Deputy Curtis Warren said he continues to pull over speeding cars along that section of Natures Way.

In the weeks following the crash, Warren said he parked near the crash site and ran his radar.

"I stopped several people going 45 to 90 miles an hour," said Warren. "But they're not teens. Every one of them has been my age."

Last summer, in an attempt to curb speeding on the circular arterial road that runs through Bloomingdale West, Hillsborough County installed two signals that flash the driver's speed, letting the driver know if he is exceeding the speed limit.

The county also painted the 30 mph speed limit directly on the road and installed "Thank You for Slowing Down" signs.

Even so, Warren said drivers consistently violate the 30 mph speed limit. Between January and June 2012, deputies issued more than 100 citations for speeding on Natures Way.

"Short of making those improvements, there's not much more we can do to get people to slow down," said Warren. "We can't put in speed humps on a main road and we certainly can't sit in people's cars with them, telling them to slow down. I've been behind the wheel of a police car for 25 years and I still don't understand what goes on in the minds of people."

He noted that Bloomingdale High School provides driver education training for students, participates in the Hillsborough County Battle of the Belts and, on Dec. 19, the school participated in a realistic mock crash with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to further emphasize the need to drive safely.

"I don't know what more we can do," said Warren.

McCarthy is the sixth Bloomingdale student to die in a car crash since 1999 when 16-year-old Stephanie Ann Culbertson was killed on Bloomingdale Avenue while reportedly talking on her cell phone.

Since then, Bloomingdale students have mourned the deaths of Haley Weatherly, 15, Nick Marcotrigiano, 17, Tyler Clark, 16, Nicole Petracci, 19, and now McCarthy.



Jen Frost January 25, 2013 at 03:35 PM
It's sad that we've lost yet another youth in a vehicular accident. Speeding through residential neighborhoods, main road or not, is beyond frustrating to me. How much time is someone going to save by going five, ten, or 20 m.p.h. over the limit? A few seconds? And at what potential cost are some drivers willing to save a few seconds? A squirrel? A pedestrian or child? Their own life? All while talking/ texting/ eating & drinking/ etc. Yes, I'm being a little dramatic, but it's clear that these accidents, even if rare, do happen. P.S. I'm the mommy pushing her precious baby through her neighborhood and giving you the evil eye for unnecessarily speeding. I have just as much a right to utilize sidewalks safely as you have the right to utilize the road.


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