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Parents devastated by son’s death in traffic accident

MANATEE — Christopher Vandall, 20, had high hopes of joining the military and embarking on a career as a firefighter, but those hopes were dashed by his death in a traffic accident.

Vandall’s father, Harold, said his son was walking home from his girlfriend’s house at about 10 p.m. Feb. 5, at 15th Street East and 67th Avenue East, when a vehicle plowed into his son. Christopher Vandall died Sunday.

Florida Highway Patrol reports say as Vandall walked on the paved shoulder of 15th Street East, the driver of a 2000 Suzuki car veered over the line and onto the shoulder, hitting Vandall and sending him smashing into the vehicle’s windshield.

Kim R. Daly, 56, told troopers she never saw Vandall and she slammed on her brakes after hitting him, sending him rolling off the vehicle and onto the shoulder of the road. Troopers issued Daly citations on charges of careless driving and not having proof of insurance, according to FHP Lt. Chris Miller.

Emergency workers airlifted Vandall to Bayfront Medical Center, in St. Petersburg, where he fought for his life for nine days, according to family members. But he succumbed to his injuries Sunday, leaving a devastated family behind.

“It has been very hard,” said his mother, Amanda Vandall, who flew in from Texas upon learning of the accident.

Since Vandall’s death, it has been a steady stream of friends and family at the Vandall home remembering the good times, she said.

“There have been people here around the clock telling us how much they loved him,” Amanda Vandall said.

Harold Vandall said his son attended Southeast High School, had a passion for wrestling, and loved to ride dirt bikes and 4-wheelers. But most of all he was a good friend, he said.

“The thing he loved most was hanging around with his friends. He was a friend’s friend,” Harold Vandall said.

Vandall loved his country too, his father said, and planned to join the military.

“But that is not going to happen now,” he said.

The family is still coming to grips with the circumstances of the accident, Harold Vandall said.

“At first, I felt compassion for the driver. But when I see careless driving, I start to get bitter,” he said. “I just feel like this never should have happened.”