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A life lost, another damaged

By ERIN SULLIVAN
Published January 11, 2007


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LAND O'LAKES - Traffic backed up for miles on U.S. 41 as grim-faced troopers worked their gruesome duty on one of the coldest nights of the year.

A teenage girl was dead.

A woman pulled her car onto the median, jumped out and ran toward the flashing blue lights.

"Do you know who was in the accident?" she asked, her voice frantic.

She was pretty, blonde, petite, in a thin black sweater and black slacks. Her eyes were desperate. Her words tumbled.

"Do you know if the ambulance has been here? Has it left?"

She ran toward the troopers, her steps punctuated with, "OhmyGod, OhmyGod."

She told a trooper her daughter's name. He left to get his clipboard. She waited, alone, hugging herself against the cold.

Trooper Joshua Malloy, 26, returned and stood before the woman.

It was her daughter, he said.

Krista Sellars was gone.

Cathy Sellars sank to her knees, and Trooper Malloy sank with her, holding her. She kneeled on the cold grass and doubled over, her arms clutching her stomach. Malloy gently rubbed her back. Above the roar of traffic, he could be heard saying, in a tender voice, "It will be okay. You'll be okay."

* * *

Word spread quickly about the 5 p.m. Tuesday accident and carloads of teenagers pulled to the median.

They wailed upon learning of Krista's death. They held each other in a huddle. Krista was a popular girl, tiny at 85 pounds. She was a bubbly, vivacious, eighth-grade honor roll student at Pine View Middle School. Cheerleader. Student Council. She sometimes anchored The Panther News, the school's morning show. Teachers had high hopes for her, for whatever she planned to do in life.

Krista was with a passenger in a 1999 Toyota driven by her 16-year-old boyfriend, Josh Parsons. It was not clear Wednesday where they were headed, but they were northbound on the busy highway about a half-mile south of Land O'Lakes High School, where Josh is a junior.

He got his license in October. The car was a gift from his dad. Josh and Krista had been together for more than a year. The first thing people see on her MySpace.com page is:

"I picture of a heart my boyfriend."

"I (heart) Josh."

The Florida Highway Patrol said Josh tried to cut over to the inside lane, striking a red 2004 Nissan pickup driven by Robert Korpol, 68, who listed a post office box in Land O'Lakes. After the accident, Korpol walked in a daze, cigarette drooping from his mouth.

"I don't know what happened," he mumbled. "I don't know. That girl is dead. She's dead."

Josh told his father, Mark Rogers, that he was in the inside lane and the truck veered left, hitting Krista's side.

The accident investigation continues, FHP spokesman Larry Coggins said.

* * *

As emergency personnel worked the accident scene, Josh's dad had to restrain him, again and again. Josh - cuts on his face, bruised ribs, hand sliced where he tried to pry the door open to save her - wanted to see Krista one last time. The troopers wouldn't allow him and his dad knew Josh shouldn't see her like that.

Josh didn't sleep that night, Rogers said. His parents took him to the hospital, because of his cuts. Rogers said Josh always planned to be a firefighter "so he could save people."

Josh said over and over, " 'I wish it was me. I wish that guy hit my side of the car,' " his father said.

Wednesday morning, Pine View principal Dave Estabrook wiped tears from his eyes and went on The Panther News and told the school Krista was gone. Several students didn't come to school. Many students and teachers talked with grief counselors on hand.

Estabrook spent Tuesday night and all day Wednesday working to make sure his students and staff were okay. As a leader, he didn't feel like he could crumble in front of them, but he could have. He took the news hard.

"Devastating," he said.

Wednesday afternoon, no one answered the door at Krista's house in Land O'Lakes. A few miles away, Josh was at home in Cypress Bayou with some friends, pacing. He didn't want to talk to a reporter. "Krista was the best thing he had in his life," his father said.

* * *

Krista's funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. James United Methodist Church, 16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. She is survived by her mother, her father, Jeffrey, of Brandon, and a 25-year-old brother, Andy Campos of Land O'Lakes. Loyless Funeral Home is handing the arrangements.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at (813) 909-4609 or at esullivan@sptimes.com.

 

 

[Last modified January 10, 2007, 21:46:07]


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