MANATEE — With tired eyes and a heavy heart, Dawn Redin sat on the sofa looking at her son’s drawings and school pictures Tuesday evening.
The 18-year-old had a mischievous grin as he sat on the same couch in their Bradenton home in one photo. In another picture, Keith W. Wallace Jr. stares off in the distance holding a surfboard tucked under his arm.
Those pictures and memories are all that remain of her son who was killed in a rollover crash Monday afternoon after he was ejected from a pickup.
Wallace had plans to go surfing at Casey Key with 18-year-old William V. Rotunda, 18, of Sarasota, Redin said.
Rotunda, who remained in critical condition Tuesday night, reportedly lost control of a 2000 Dodge pickup on the southbound on-ramp at State Road 70 and Interstate 75, causing the truck to overturn, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
Neither Rotunda and Wallace were wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the truck in the crash, according to a report.
Today marks the first day a new statewide seat belt law goes into effect. Law enforcement will be able to now stop drivers for not wearing seat belts. Before, there had to be other violations for law enforcement to issue a citation.
Redin said she hopes others will buckle up after her son’s death.
“Don’t complain about a ticket. The money you have to pay doesn’t compare to saving a life,” she said. “If Keith had been wearing his, he would have had a chance.”
FHP troopers say at about 12:30 p.m., Wallace died at the scene, while emergency workers airlifted Rotunda to a St. Petersburg hospital.
The FHP report said the truck drifted to the left on the on-ramp and Rotunda over-corrected to the right, causing the truck to spin around counterclockwise.
The truck then careened off the ramp and onto the west shoulder, before overturning several times, ejecting both men. The truck stopped upright, facing north on top of a wire fence on the west shoulder of I-75, the FHP report said.
Muddy tire tracks still marred the grass where family members placed a wooden cross, fresh flowers and a balloon in remembrance of Wallace.
Family members said Wallace had overcome a drug addiction to prescription drugs. He was enrolled in an alternative program at Riverview High School in Sarasota to earn a diploma.
After months of staying away from home and acting withdrawn, he began cooking dinner for the family and spending time at home, Redin said. “He told me he loved me and he would be home to cook dinner for me; he never made it back,” she said.
The crash remains under investigation.