Sunday, January 27, 2008

Racing through life......

Florida Highway Patrol Capt Jeff Succi stated that there were yaw marks at the end of the runway, indicating that the car turned sideways before launching over an embankment. It then went through the air about 200 feet before slamming into a large tree. The FHP believes that the car traveled over the 80 to 85 foot embankment at the end of the airstrip and impacted the tree about 15 above the ground. It was also reported that the force of the crash left parts of the car imbedded within the tree and no report has been released yet as to what speed they estimate the BMW was traveling at when it left the runway.

The grey 2008 BMW split in two on impact, ejecting three of the victims and partially ejecting the two others in the accident that was reported at 3:47 am Saturday, January 26, and all 5 were pronounced dead at the scene between 3:55 and 3:56 am. At this time, authorities were unable to state whether any of the young men had been wearing seatbelts or where any of them, besides the identified driver, were sitting. One of the victims though had been reportedly found approximately 100 feet from the oak tree the BMW had hit.

Joshua D Ammirato, 18, of Fairfield FL, was driving his father's $80,000 BMW north on Runway 36, a 1.5 mile long Greystone airstrip adjacent to Jumbolair Aviation Estates when he went airborne. The four passengers and friend's of his were identified as James Devon Hime, 19, of 10660 NE 47th Ave, Ocala FL, Dustin J Dawe, 19, of 13040 NW 80th St Rd, Fairfield FL, James Casey, 19, of 4245 SW 20th Ave, Ocala FL and Isaac Rubin, 20, of 45 Pecan Run Pass, Ocala FL.

The demolished BMW came to rest in flames near the home of Augustine and Kristina Berenguer in the 1400 block of Northeast 95th St. They stated that they were awakened by the sound of the crash and Kristina called 911 after Augustine went outside to investigate the flames. George Borger who lives next to the airstrip stated that he was woken up by the sound of car engines on the airstrip at 3:30 am Saturday morning. He added that he saw them going up and down the runway and they were going very fast.

Hime, Ammirato and Dawe all were former students of North Marion High School, Rubin attended Forest High School and Casey graduated from Trinty Catholic High. North Marion High School principal Kathy Quelland described her three former students as popular and involved students who also wrestled for the school. Rubin had also been a wrestler and Casey had played football in high school and was a defensive back for the Jacksonville University Dolphins.

Alainya Frauenshuh, a senior at North Marion High School was friends with the young men and stated that they had attended a Trinity High School basketball game and then went to a party at a friend's house. They had been celebrating Dustin Dawe's 19th birthday she said. The FHP is still interviewing people but they have stated that the accident may be alcohol related. They will not be certain though, until the toxicology results are returned to them.

Residents in the area have reported that local teens regularly sneak onto the runway through an entrance in a nearby, ungated subdivision. Jeremy Thayer, co-owner of Jumbolair Aviation Estates, where John Travolta lives, was contacted at about 8 am about the accident. He stated that they didn't hear anything unusual in the morning hours and while they chase kids off the runway when they spot them, they added that kids can get out there if they want to badly enough.

The owner of Greystone Airport, James Garemore, stated that the teens didn't access the runway from their property and feels that they had to have gotten onto it from the Jumbolair side of the property. The Garemore's have battled with Travolta since 2001 over a verbal agreement he stated he had that allowed him to access the runway for his own use when he purchsed property there. The accident may bring the safety and access concerns to a forefront again.

Sadly, 5 young lives have been cut short in what seems to be another example of how something that seemed so much fun at the start, ended up tragically, a very poor choice.

Of note: go here for a slideshow.

Update: Jan 27

What hasn't been determined as of yet in the accident investigation are the answers to the following questions: where any of the occupants wearing their seatbelts, how fast the car was traveling when it left the end of the runway, whether there were any other cars on the runway at the time, though there is no evidence of that at this tme and while it it known that they young men had attended a party where alcohol was served, it is unknown at this time who had provided it and lastly, it hasn't been determined how they had accessed the runway.

A memorial service will be held at 6pm Monday at the Central Florida Community College Klien Center. Counselors will be available and Dr Fred Miley, with the Marion County community Crisis Response Team will lead the event on Monday.

A memorial service is planned for Casey at 10:30 am in the gym of Trinity Catholic High School as well.

Photo of the victims from left to right: Dustin Dawe, Justin Casey & James Hime.
bottom row: Joshua Ammirato & Isaac Rubin

For a recent post, go here and a related post, go here. For the latest update, go here.

Update: Jan 29
"Please remember the good, not the bad. Please don't bring anyone hurt," stated Samantha Hall.

Monday was the first chance for many to share the pain and tears they had for the five young men lost in this Saturday's crash. A crowd of about 1,000 attended the memorial for the five this evening. Samantha Hall, Joshua's girlfriend, spoke to the crowd and asked that they not blame him and that they not take their anger over the tragedy out on anyone else as well.

The mayor and speakers from the Ocala Police Department and others spoke as well, giving the audience advice and offers of support. Josh Torch, a graduate of North Marion High asked that everyone sign a petition to get the story of the five out for people to know who they were. He was especially upset by blogger Michael Crook for calling the boys names and making assumptions about their personalities.

Among the parents and families present, Art Dawe was the most outspoken. He stated that he took comfort in that he had hugged Dustin and told him he loved him the night before the crash. He repeatedly told the audience to not be afraid to hug your children and tell them that you loved them.

Earlier in the morning, classes were suspended at Trinity Catholic High School for a mass held in the gym. Each of the five were remembered in prayer there and a poster board with pictures was posted. Casey's framed jerseys from football and baseball bearing the "number 2" were also on display.

Rev Patrick Sheedy spoke about the full life that Casey had led that went beyond football and baseball. He had loved outdoor activities including hunting and rodeo events. A video presentation at the end of the mass of various pictures of Casey growing up was more than some in the audience could handle.

In another developement today, the FHP has backed off their initial statement that alcohol may have played a part in the accident. There are conflicting reports about what the young men did after the basketball game. Rubin's girlfriend, Natalie Thayer, whose parents own Jumbolair Estates, stated that she had dropped off Rubin at the home of Joe and Jolane McAlister and their son Colin Brennan. She stated that she arrived around midnight and didn't see alcohol at the party and it was fairly small and low-key.

None of the five lived in the estates and Thayer stated she didn't know how they got on the runway, she hadn't given any of them the access code. The McAlister's refered questions to their lawyer and stated that there wasn't alcohol available at the home.

Another of Rubin's friends, Andrew Raymond, had a very different story of the events of the evening. He stated that Rubin called him around 12:30 am when he was leaving the McAlister home to tell him they were leaving to go to the store and then meet some friends at the runway. He added that Rubin told him that several of the others had been drinking and commented that he had a bunch of drunk people with him.

The FHP stated that it may take up to 60 days for the toxicology results to be returned and they are backing off the intial statements as they sort out the differing stories they have right now.

It has also been reported that less than twelve hours before the accident, Ammirato had logged onto, as he had done on both Thursday and Friday, to ask for advice on how to shift the 500-horsepower BMW M5. He told forum members that he had only had the car for three weeks, though the car is registered to his father Santo Ammirato and he was interested in advice for smoother shifting and if turning off the stability control would give him higher performance.

Forum members advised him to slowly learn the car and showed genuine concern for his safety in learning to drive it. Many echoed the same concerns for not "draggin" with it but to learn how to handle the car gradually first. Ammirato last posted at 9:02 pm Friday night in the forum, thanking them for their advise.

The M5 was described by writer Michael Joran in Automobile Magazine as a "fearfully intimidating machine" and they found that the SMG transmission left the driver feeling that they more a victim of speed than the master of it.

Another memorial service will be held Thursday at 5:30 pm in the back parking lot of the Ocala Speedway, 9050 NW Gainesville Rd. There will be a bonfire and a flatbed truck for bands to perform on available. Everyone is invited and free drinks will be provided by Pepsi. Musicians are welcome to bring their instruments as well.

Update: Jan 30 ....... funeral plans

The following funeral arraingements have been released:

Visitation for James Devon Hime, 19 will be at the Forest Lawn Funeral Home, 5740 S Pine Ave, Ocala, from 2-4 pm and 6-9 pm Friday. The funeral service will be held at 11 am Saturday at Marion Technical Institute, 1614 Fort King St, Ocala.

Visitation for Joshua D Ammirato, 18, will be held Tuesday from 4-8 pm at the Roberts Funeral Homes, Downtown Chapel, 606 SW 2nd Ave Ocala. There will also be visitation on Wednesday and Thursday from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm. The funeral will be at 11 am Friday at the funeral home.

Visitation for Dustin J "Smiley" Dawe, 19, will be held from 5-8 pm on Wednseday at the Hiers Funeral Home, 910 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala. The funeral will be held at 3 pm Thursday at Oak Griner Baptist Church, 6422 NE Jacksonville Rd, Ocala.

Visitation for Jacob J Casey, 19, will be held 6-8 pm on Tuesday at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church. The funeral will be held at 2 pm Wednesday at the church at 5 SE 17th St Ocala.

Visitation for Isaac J Rubin, 20, will be held from 3-4 on Thursday and followed by a celebration of his life at 4 pm, at Heirs Funeral Home, 910 Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala.

The Star-Banner has set up a guest book for those who wish to leave their condolences and comments will be reviewed before they are posted. The address for that is: Comments and rememberances are also being posted on the special page of Now We're Talking blog.

Update: Feb 3

The Florida Highway Patrol investigators plan to meet with and discuss the findings of their accident report before the details of it are made public. They plan to give them a copy of the report and go over it with the families and answer whatever questions they can about it as well.

The expect that the report will be released to the public sometime on Monday. It is expected that the report will include the events that led up to the accident that night as well as a more indepth report later which would consider the toxicology reports. It has been stated that the FHP may be trying to analyze data that may have been recorded by the BMW. That has been countered by reports that there really is no "black box" in the car and if there were, the data wasn't very accurate.

The FHP has stated that no one has been subpoenaed to testify yet, that they also have found no proof yet of a possible second car that may have been racing Ammirato and that they are still working on how the car gained access to the runway. A report released also stated that Ammirato had been ticketed in the past for speeding but upon reading that report, none of his tickets showed him "racing."

Update: Feb 4

Once again, the reporting of a very public accident that has claimed the lives of five young people in both the media and on blogs has been called into question. Readers to online forums have accused many of breaching both ethics and decency and suggest that the families be left to grieve on their own.

The accident in Ocala recently, as well as last year's tragic accident that claimed the lives of Bailey Goodman and her four friends were very public incidents. Family and friends visited the accident sites and left memorials, grieved together in very public services and participated in public rememberances. These are all events that can and should be reported responsibly.

The funerals and posted rememberances of all ten involved, exposed the public to who these young people were in life. The job of a responsible media and blogger is to report the facts, though we are also human and hold our own opinions as do readers. Rumor abound in both print and verbally after such tragedies and it is through the media that the truth and facts can usually be found. A failure to report those things would leave only the rumors existing and not allow those who didn't personally know the victims to see and understand how well these young people lived their short lives.

I agree that failing to report all that is involved in the accidents, fails to allow the tragedy of their deaths, to teach those who live........ how to possibly live our lives better or how to avoid a tragedy such as these to occur in the future.

While the possibility of alchohol being involved in the choices the five young men made that night will be proved or disproved in the very near future, there were other choices made that night. It would be nice to ignore and bury the facts involved but the will still exist and many will be curious as to what those are, instead of accepting rumors.

"If you want a fast car, you want it for a reason," stated Fred

Fred Rich, 62, a retired drag racer who hasn't raced in 12 years, knows what is like to race a quarter mile in seven seconds. He also knows the pull that speed and the adreniline rush from it has had on him his whole life. He stated that even though he is 40 years from his fast youth and has crashed or rolled numerous times, he continues to love the speed factor.

At some point though, Joshua Ammirato's father placed the keys in the hands of a young driver. Those keys were for a vehicle that was registered in his name and was a car that not only allowed the driver to adjust how fast the shifts would be, how much horsepower could be applied..... it allowed the driver to "max it out" as Ammirato evidently was seeking to do when he posted on the m5 board.

His father had purchased a BMW that had a V-10 engine and a gearbox that is derived from a Formula-1 race car capable of going 200 mph. While the manufacturers of such vehicles shouldn't be blamed for offering them, drivers should use caution in using what they purchased.

Young men have been shown in repeated studies to love adventure and being able to show that they can handle problems. They also tend to drive beyond their abilities, whether knowingly or unknowingly. All of the five who died were well within the demographic of those most likely to die in a speed related accident. A recent study by AAA concluded that men ages 16-20 are 26 percent more likely to die in traffic accidents than women of the same age.

While the need for speed is not a dangerous thing, nor do I advocate banning it, I do believe there are plenty of venues available for speed addicted drivers to safely "max out" their cars. I also believe that parents can always learn by the choices made by others who are involved in tragedies like this and the Goodman accident. In both cases, a parent and owner of the vehicle placed the keys in the hands of their child who may not have been mature enough to handle the responsiblity of driving at that time.


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