MANATEE — Kim Mendez was driving down 26th Street West on Monday night when she came upon the body of dear friend still lying dead in the roadway.
“He would do anything for you he possible could,” said Mendez, who knew the 29-year-old Bradenton man for about seven to eight years. “He had become more of a son to me.”
Steven L. Hatfield was killed after he was driving his Suzuki motorcycle south on 26th Street West when a 29-year-old man driving a Ford SUV on 33rd Avenue West turned in front of him on 26th Street. The driver didn’t see Hatfield, who was passing traffic, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
Hatfield attempted to miss the SUV, but instead his front wheel struck the rear of the vehicle just before 9 p.m. Monday near St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Witnesses at the scene told troopers that it appeared Hatfield was speeding.
“‘There’s a bike,’ my daughter said,” Mendez recalls. “I said, ‘Yeah.’”
“‘There’s a body, she said,” recalled Mendez. “I said, ‘Yeah.’”
“‘It’s Steven. It’s Steven I just know it,’” Mendez remembers her daughter saying. “It’s just hard to believe he’s gone.”
Mendez said Hatfield was temporarily laid off from construction work.
“He was just going through a hard time,” she said.
Mendez said she just happened to stop by his home about six blocks away Monday afternoon.
“I told him, ‘I love you, Steven. You’re like my own,’” said Mendez. “He said, ‘I know, mom. I love you too.’”
She said he was heading to the grocery store when he crashed.
In 2009, there were a total of eight motorcycle fatalities in Manatee County, according to FHP, Bradenton Police Department and Palmetto Police Department. In those crashes, four riders were not wearing helmets.
Hatfield’s death makes the fifth motorcycle fatality this year, said FHP Lt. Chris Miller. Four of the crashes involved people who were not wearing helmets.
While Florida law does not require adults to wear helmets if they are insured, Miller said he strongly encourages it.“It’s the single most important thing you can do to reduce injury or death on a motorcycle,” he said.