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Local teen's life cut short in I-75 ramp crash

MANATEE — Keith Wallace wrote in poem-like prose on his profile that he was “blessed” to get another chance to right his life’s course before it was too late.

But a tragic vehicle accident Monday afternoon cut short the local teenager’s dream and his life.

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Chris Miller said Wallace, 18, died when at 12:15 p.m. a 2000 silver Dodge pickup rolled over off the State Road 70 on-ramp to southbound Interstate 75.

Another teen in the vehicle, William Rotunda, 18, of Sarasota, was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and remained in critical condition at 9 p.m., according to the hospital’s night administrator.

Miller said neither teenager was wearing a seat belt.

A friend of Wallace, Kelsey Wright, said she knew him for about four years.

“He was fun to be around,” Wright said in a telephone interview Monday night. “He could make the whole room laugh.”

Wallace wrote in his MySpace profile that he was in “a program for now until May.” Wright said he finished rehabilitation June 8.

“He was in the process of doing a lot of stuff,” she said. “He was just a kid trying to make things right.”

According to the Florida Highway Patrol’s initial report, Wallace was from Sarasota, but Wright said his family moved to Sabal Cove Apartments in Manatee County in September.

“His mother was devastated,” Wright said, after just returning from visiting the family.

According to Wright, Wallace had two sisters — Nicole, 19, and Elizabeth, 8.

“Everyone just can’t believe it,” Wright said. “It’s so hard, no one wants to believe it.”

Wright said she knew Rotunda since grade school and that they both graduated from Riverview High School in Sarasota this year.

“He was all signed up and ready to go to the military,” she said of her friend. “He’s just a good-loving country boy.”

The early FHP report did not indicate which of the teenagers was driving, but Wright said it was Rotunda.

“They were headed to the beach to go surfing,” she said.

Wallace wrote on his MySpace page that he couldn’t wait to see his friends after finishing the program, but on Monday his MySpace friends could only leave messages of condolence and sorrow, which began appearing within hours after the accident.

“keeeiiith! its only been 6 hours. it dont even seem real. i love you. watch over all of us. we all so proud of you!!! r.i.p. baby boy! (sic)” one read.

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