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    Twins killed in car crash

    The day before their 21st birthday, a brother and sister from Clearwater die in Tallahassee.

    By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published November 24, 2002


    photo
    Suzie Ward
    photo
    Eddie Ward
    CLEARWATER -- The day before his twins were to turn 21 years old, Ed Ward was at the Wal-Mart buying groceries and gift cards.

    Ward bought hot dogs and charcoal for the grill. He had a tee time set for a birthday golf outing. His family was eager to drive to Tallahassee to help the twins celebrate.

    The twins, Eddie and Suzie Ward, had been born five minutes apart 21 years ago today. They were virtually inseparable through childhood and high school. They were attending Tallahassee Community College together.

    But Ed Ward received a phone call Saturday morning from a family member who told him to come home right away. Florida Highway Patrol troopers were there. They had devastating news.

    Eddie and Suzie had been in a car crash that morning. The car had hit a tree and flipped, ejecting Suzie and pinning Eddie inside.

    Troopers told Ed Ward his children died instantly.

    "It sucked the wind right out of me," Ed Ward said Saturday afternoon. "The rest of this day has been like a haze.

    "I love them more than you can ever imagine," he added. "I can't believe I just lost the two of them. I cried so much that I'm dry right now."

    The twins were born, blue-eyed and beautiful, at Morton Plant Hospital on Nov. 24, 1981. Suzie was born at 2:14 p.m., Eddie five minutes later.

    Eddie acted as his sister's guardian. When a kid stole a ball from her during recess in grade school, Eddie knocked him down and said: "Don't you ever take anything from my sister." He also quizzed her boyfriends, ensuring they were gentlemen.

    Ed Ward, 44, said when he took Eddie to the bank and a teller offered him a sucker, he would ask for one for his sister. If they didn't have one, he gave his back.

    "There's that bond between twins," Ed Ward said. "They were tight. It was always 'we.' "

    [Family photo]
    Suzie and Eddie Ward were said to be inseparable since childhood.

    Eddie and Suzie graduated from Clearwater High School in 2000. They were involved in sports and played in a jazz band.

    After two years in the Army as a military policeman, Eddie went to St. Petersburg Junior College, then to school in Tallahassee. He was studying business. Suzie was studying child psychology.

    She had attended Hillsborough Community College and worked at a before- and after-school program for kids at Plumb Elementary School in Clearwater.

    Suzie was determined and ambitious. She was a buoy to her sister, Kathy, 23, who suffers from lupus, a chronic inflammatory disorder.

    "She's a go-getter," said mom, Teresa Ward, 43, a registered nurse at Mease Countryside Hospital.

    Ed Ward, a manager at Clearwater Produce, said his son called him Friday evening. He was heading to a wedding reception. Suzie called about three hours later. She was doing homework in her apartment.

    At some point during the night, Eddie picked up his sister and took her to dinner, Ed Ward said.

    They were driving to Eddie's home with Ryan Carter, his roommate, when the crash occurred about two blocks from the house. Carter, 24, escaped with minor injuries.

    Eddie had been behind the wheel of the Mazda Millenia he had bought just two days earlier. Suzie was in the passenger seat. As the car entered a curve on Timberlane Road in Tallahassee, it veered out of control and hit a tree, then another. The car flipped upside down.

    Suzie, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected through the front windshield. Eddie, who was wearing a seat belt, was pinned in the car, which caught fire.

    Highway Patrol Lt. Jimmie Collins said investigators are looking into whether alcohol was involved in the 1:30 a.m. accident.

    "If we find out they were given alcohol through an establishment or through someone of age at a party, we'll definitely press charges," Collins said.

    The first phone call Ed Ward made Saturday morning was to his friend, Rick Teal, whose son, Ricky, died in a car crash in Clearwater on Jan. 11.

    Ricky Teal, an 18-year-old Clearwater High School senior and baseball star, was driving home with his brother when he lost control of his sport-utility vehicle and struck a tree on Keene Road. His brother, Reed, 17, survived.

    Teal said Ward told him: "You're the only person who knows what I'm feeling. I lost my two babies."

    Teal told his friend: "I'll be right there."

    The Wards were friends of Ricky Teal and stayed close to the Teal family after his death.

    Eddie Ward had gotten a tattoo on his right arm in the shape of praying hands. Above the hands were Ricky Teal's initials; below it were Ricky's birth date and date of death.

    For the Teals, the death of the Ward twins was a third tragic blow. In June, they hired a plane to fly over the Clearwater High School graduation pulling a banner that read: "Good Luck CHS class of '02. With heavenly love, Ricky."

    The pilot of that plane, 21-year-old Brian Mason, was killed after the plane crashed in a Manatee County field as he dropped off the banner.

    "We're just floored," Rick Teal said Saturday. "It's like the plane crash all over again."

    To cope, the Wards said they will rely on the support of family and friends, especially the Teals.

    "This is the truest test of faith you can go through," Rick Teal said. "You have to remember that they are with God and you will see them again. I told Ed and Teresa that Eddie and Suzie are with a friend right now."

    The Ward family is close-knit. Family photos adorn the walls of their Clearwater home. The twins called home almost every day. They never finished a conversation without saying "I love you."

    When Ed and Teresa Ward celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in August, their children were with them. They ordered a limousine and went to Shula's Steak House.

    When Eddie was in basic training, he wasn't supposed to call his family or send them anything. But Eddie sneaked out to call on a pay phone. He even called the Teal family to check on them.

    One day during training maneuvers, he paid a delivery man $20 to use his cell phone to call home. He also bought a disposable camera, took photos of himself and sent them home in a hollowed-out soap bar.

    "They couldn't stand to be away from home," Ed Ward said.

    Ed Ward said it was difficult learning that both twins had died, though there might be comfort in them being together. He was sorting out those emotions Saturday.

    "They came into this world together and they left together," he said. "It breaks my heart to lose both my kids at the same time, but how would my daughter feel today if she had to go to her brother's funeral? Or vice versa. I know they loved each other and I know they're together."

    A public visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Moss-Feaster Belcher Road Chapel in Clearwater. A service will be at 7 p.m. Mass will be at St. Cecelia's Catholic Church in Clearwater at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Interment will follow at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park. The family requests memorial contributions be made to Shriner's Hospital for Children.

    -- Times staff writer Amy Wimmer contributed to this report. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com .

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