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Crash kills girl, 10, who would light up a room

Ismelys Regalado of Ruskin was going home from church with her family when her mom's car collided with another.

Published October 11, 2006

RUSKIN - Ismelys Regalado spent her days as many 10-year-olds do. She loved pretending with Barbies, playing tag and talking on the phone with her best friend.

But something separated this green-eyed, blond-haired fourth-grader from some others her age. In her short life, she spent a lot of time flipping through stories about men named David, Goliath, Noah and more.

"She used to study the Bible a lot, which is unusual for little kids," said Peter Lebron, a close friend of the Regalado family's.

On Monday, Ismelys was with her family on their way home from Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall Riverview Congregation when a car slammed into the family's Toyota.

The Ruskin Elementary student had spent the evening rehearsing a small part for a religious function at her church, Lebron said.

She was dozing in the back seat when a Chevrolet drove through the intersection at Shell Point Road and 15th Street NE and collided with her mother's car at 10 p.m., a Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Ismelys, known at school for her bright eyes and sweet, positive attitude, died at 3:06 a.m. Tuesday at Tampa General Hospital.

On Tuesday night, family and friends gathered at the Regalado home, 1402 Casa Bonita Ave., still in shock by the news of Ismelys' death.

"She would walk into a room, and she would light it up," Lebron said. "She was so full of life. This little girl, she would make you smile."

During Bible studies, Ismelys would raise her hand enthusiastically to answer questions, Lebron said. Once, when Lebron's wife, Vanessa, didn't come to church, Ismelys gave Lebron her old teddy bear and told him to deliver it to his wife for comfort.

"Her family is a very loving family," Lebron said. "You learn what you see."

Lordes Falcon Bornot, 39, Ismelys' mother, was driving at the time of the crash. Ismelys' sister, Ismerai, 18, and her brother, Misael, 8, were also in the car. The entire family was hospitalized after the crash, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Ismelys was the only one who suffered life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the 2003 Chevrolet, Andy Claudio, 24, of 1314 Fourth Avenue NE, was also treated for injuries, which were not considered life-threatening. Information about his condition was not available from hospital officials late Tuesday.

Carter said the crash happened just after Bornot stopped at a stop sign while traveling south on 15th Street NE. As she accelerated into the intersection, she drove into Claudio's path, and her Toyota spun into a ditch, Carter said.

Claudio's car careened into a tree.

No charges had been filed late Tuesday.

At Ruskin Elementary, crisis counselors spent the day talking with Ismelys' classmates and teachers about the little girl's life and death.

Principal Donna Ippolito sent a note home to parents asking them to be mindful of their children's reactions to Ismelys' death.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

[Last modified October 11, 2006, 06:08:54]

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