Lakewood Ranch Herald

Doug Garrity left mark in his 27 short years

MANATEE — It takes some people 100 years of living to make their mark on the world.

Doug Garrity did it in 27.

So said family friend Karen Stewart about Garrity, the popular Braden River High School assistant football coach who died late Saturday night in a single-vehicle crash in Nokomis.

Friends of Garrity continued to pour through the family’s home on 52nd Avenue West Tuesday, four days after the accident.

Garrity’s father and stepmother, John and Dehlia, have served food and soft drinks for all of them while setting out their son’s most treasured possessions for them to see, including his championship rings from Valdosta State University where he walked on, got a scholarship and played defensive tackle, his scrapbook from his Bayshore High School football days where he wore No. 69 and played offense, and pictures of his friends and heroes, including Robert “Pig” Goff, a former Bayshore standout who made it to the NFL.

But of all the people who came over, the most important to the Garritys, was probably one who needed consoling rather than the other way around.

The Garritys phoned Braden River High coach Josh Hunter, who was driving the 2001 Ford truck that crashed with Garrity in the backseat, and told him they wanted to see him at their house. He came over and they sat and talked for hours. The Garritys said that Hunter was inconsolable.

“Our feelings for Josh are that we are all going through this terrible tragedy together,” John Garrity said. “We told him that we love him and Doug loved him and that we knew he treated Doug like a brother. We told him it was just an accident. We didn’t talk about the accident. We don’t care about that now.”

The Garritys learned Tuesday that the school is renaming its annual Powder Buff football coach in his honor.

The 2009 Douglas Garrity Memorial Powder Buff game is scheduled Friday after a 7:30 p.m. candlelight vigil at the Pirates’ football stadium. All proceeds from the event will go to an annual Douglas Garrity scholarship, John Garrity said.

Patrick Garrity found himself driving to Doctor’s Hospital Sunday morning. He managed to get a nurse supervisor to allow him 15 minutes with his brother’s body.

“I got my closure. I said a prayer for him and left,” Patrick Garrity said.

The coroner confirmed head trauma on Tuesday, John Garrity said.

Doug Garrity liked seeing smiles and hearing laughter and generated plenty of both among the people he met in Bradenton.

He had so many friends his parents called them “The Herd.”

He liked wearing crazy hats. “He had this pink one,” lifetime friend John Keiper said. “I could never wear it and pull it off. He could.”

He forbid his mother to throw away his ratty shirts. He would cut off the sleeves and use them as headbands.

But the one place he was “stone cold” serious was the weightroom at Braden River High or at Lifestyles on State Road 70, where he worked out every single day after school, said Chris Valcarcel, defensive backs coach at Braden River High.

“He would always walk into football meetings late with a big smile on his face,” Valcarcel said. “But in the weight room, he was intense. He pushed the kids and they loved him.”

Garrity’s family estimate 1,200 will pack Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m. Friday for his funeral Mass. There will be two days of viewing: 5-8 p.m. today and 5-8 p.m. Thursday at Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory, 26th St. Chapel, 5624 26th Street W.

Hunter was driving north on State Road 681, entering the on-ramp of Interstate 75 near Nokomis about 11:50 p.m., when he failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, according to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report. The truck overturned, and Garrity was ejected from the back seat. He was taken to Doctors Hospital in Sarasota where he later died.

FHP Spokesman Chris Miller said troopers drew Hunter’s blood and sent it to a lab for drug and alcohol testing. No sobriety tests were given at the scene, and there have been no charges, Miller said.

Miller said he could not comment further about additional details of the crash including why a field sobriety test or a breath test were not performed at the scene because the crash remains under investigation.

Troopers on Tuesday said it could be a few weeks before the toxicology results are ready.

“It should be within 30 days, it just all depends on the case load of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” said Miller.

For now, troopers are preparing a traffic homicide report, which will not be complete until the toxicology results come back. Typically, he said, those reports are complete within 60 days.

The stretch of road where the crash took place has proved dangerous in recent years. Florida Department of Transportation Chief Safety Officer Marianne Trussell said that from 2005 through 2008 authorities have responded to eight crashes on that portion of S.R. 691. Sunday night’s crash was the first fatal wreck there in the past five years.

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