Shallow dive leaves deep void at Land O'Lakes High

Published May 2, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - Sixteen-year-old Tyler Sweet had planned to try out for his high school football team this week and also go to his first concert.

But on Sunday, while he was playing with his 7-year-old nephew and dog on Bell Lake, he dived off a dock into water that was too shallow and broke his neck.

Sweet was taken to University Community Hospital and put on life support, but he died Monday.

"This is the hardest thing of my life, " his mother, Elizabeth Beaty, said Tuesday as friends and family gathered to remember him. "He was a loved kid."

The Land O'Lakes High sophomore was thinking of entering Job Corps, a vocational training program, and dreamed of becoming a chef one day.

He loved the Food Network - Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay were his favorite chefs.

"He could make a mean steak, better than me, " said his aunt, Debbi Riendeau, with whom Sweet had lived with for the past 18 months. "He'd make new recipes in my book now and then."

Sweet's friends remembered how he greeted them - always with a bear hug. In his group of friends, who called themselves the Carebears, he had earned the nickname "Snuggle Bear, " said David Crawford.

"He was one of those people who made you feel better when you were around him, " said Crawford, 15.

Sweet's tendency to misbehave landed him in in-school suspension frequently, but he was always caring and respectful, said his favorite teacher, Annette Noack-Bon.

Noack-Bon, a diabetic, said that last week in her class, her blood-sugar plummeted, and Sweet ran to get help. He checked in on her the next day to make sure she was all right.

She wanted to make sure other students knew how dangerous jumping into shallow water could be.

"He wasn't doing anything wrong, " she said. "He was just having a good time, being a kid."

While funeral arrangements have not yet been made, Sweet's friends are planning ways to honor him. The school is allowing students to create a large memory board full of pictures, said Tiffany Brown, 18.

Noack-Bon said his death would affect many students.

"A person like that is going to leave a hole in your heart for a long time, " she said.

Gina Pace can be reached at 352 521-6518 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6518. Her e-mail address is gpace@sptimes.com.