EAST MANATEE — Flags flew at half staff today outside Braden River High School in honor of an assistant football coach killed in a car crash during the weekend.
Inside the school, a slew of students and faculty wore all black in memory of 27-year-old Douglas J. Garrity, who died late Saturday night after a single-vehicle crash on the State Road 681 entrance ramp to Interstate 75 in Sarasota County.
Garrity, of Bradenton, died after he was thrown from the backseat of a 2001 Ford truck driven by Braden River head football coach Joshua Lee Hunter.
Troopers are investigating if the 11:50 p.m. wreck was alcohol-related, according to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report. Hunter, 32, of Bradenton, and two other passengers in the car — Matthew E. Braselton, 26, of Bradenton, and James E. Hunter, 38, of Myakka City – were not injured.
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Garrity, who taught drop-out prevention, was a second-year teacher and defensive line coach for the Pirates.
“He had a passion for those kids,” Braden River principal Jim Pauley said as he sat in his office this morning, wearing black.
Garrity’s death, he said, is a tough loss for the Pirates family.
Crisis teams met with the school’s football team and Garrity’s students this morning to console them.
“The adults and students are struggling ... grieving,” Pauley said.
Hunter was not in school today, but Pauley said he spoke with Hunter’s wife, Anne.
“Coach Hunter is actually very upset,” said Pauley, who added that he did not know how long he would be out.
Pauley said Hunter and Garrity had been in Sarasota for a get-together at the home of a Venice High School coach prior to the crash.
Pauley said he did not know additional details about the evening.
Hunter was driving north on State Road 681 entering the on-ramp of I-75 near Nokomis when he failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, according to the crash report.
While overturning, Garrity was ejected from the back seat. He was taken to Doctors Hospital in Sarasota were he later died, the report states.
Garrity and James Hunter, who is Josh Hunter’s brother, were not wearing their seatbelts, according to the report.
FHP Spokesman Chris Miller said troopers drew Josh Hunter’s blood and sent it to a lab for drug and alcohol testing. No sobriety tests were given at the scene, and no arrest had been made as of this afternoon, Miller said.
Braselton, who sat in the front passenger seat, is a defensive line coach at Southeast High School.
Garrity graduated from Bayshore High in 2000 and graduated from Valdosta State University in Georgia in 2006.
Mario Valcarcel, a former athletic director at Bayshore, called Garrity a good kid from a good family.
Garrity was single and lived at home with his mother and father in Bradenton.
Garrity, Valcarcel said, played on the offensive line for Bayshore.
“He was more than an athlete, he was a great kid ... had a great family,” Valcarcel said. “A wonderful young man you were happy to be around with all the time.”