Crime

Palmetto teen died in hit-and-run along U.S. 19. Seven months ago, his mom died nearby

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Thirteen-year-old Tyler Pittard is not the first one in his family to be killed along U.S. 19 near Palmetto.

Wednesday marks seven months since the teen’s mother, Mindy O’Neill, was riding her bicycle along the east shoulder of U.S. 19 when she went to cross and turned into the path of a Dodge 1500 pickup truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The impact sent her flying onto the hood of the pickup truck, before landing her on the pavement alongside the truck.

The driver faced no citations or charges because O’Neill failed to make sure there wasn’t approaching traffic and didn’t use a crosswalk, and because her bicycle didn’t have the lighting required after sundown, according to information released by the Florida Highway Patrol at the time.

The mother of three died just six days before her 35th birthday.

Early Saturday, her son was hit while he was walking along the same highway, just a mile south from where she was killed.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m., Tyler, 47-year-old Donald Charles Keefer and a 40-year-old Palmetto woman were walking along the west shoulder of U.S. 19 just south of the 49th Street intersection when a white Chevy Silverado swerved off the road and hit them.

Keefer died at the scene and Tyler was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where he died. The surviving victim was taken to Blake Medical Center, where she was still being treated for her injuries as of Monday.

The victims had been night fishing and were walking to a nearby store when they were hit.

The driver of the Silverado did not stop, but came forward the next morning after seeing news reports of the fatal crash. He told investigators he thought he hit a deer. A criminal investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol is ongoing.

Some family members have taken to social media with their grief.

“I know many of you have heard in January my niece was hit on her bike and we lost a beautiful soul,” Patricia Branch Rolston wrote on Facebook. “And now with a broken heart ... her 13 yrs old son (Tyler) was hit by a truck and we lost him.”

Another relative has created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help O’Neill’s mother who was raising all three of her children since her death and to pay for funeral arrangements for Tyler.

Details on the investigation of what happened are revealed in a report filed by a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

On Sunday, the deputy was sent to the home of a Palmetto man after he called the sheriff’s office to report that he thought me may be the driver in the hit and run. The man was waiting for the deputy outside, standing next to his 2003 white Chevy Silverado.

The pickup truck’s hood was pushed back, the grill was missing, the front bumper was smashed in several places, the left and right fender were pushed in and the driver`s side mirror was damaged, the deputy noted in an incident report.

As the deputy pulled up, the man went inside his open garage and sat in a wooden chair. When the deputy got out and approached him, he was crying.

“I was reading the paper and saw where there was an accident on 19 at 2:30 a.m. yesterday and I was there at that time and thought I hit a big deer or a cow,” the man told the deputy. “The paper said that someone died. Did I kill someone?”

The deputy told the man he was assisting FHP, and that a trooper was on the way from the hospital to talk with him.

But the man went on and told the deputy that, “It was raining really heavy and he couldn’t see and thought it was a deer or cow he killed and then asked me how do you live with yourself after you kill someone?” the deputy wrote in the incident report.

A trooper arrived to take over and the man’s truck was impounded.

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