Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day for a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MARCH 26, 2009.
MANATEE COUNTY — Dressed in all black, Braden River High School students and staff mourned the loss of one of their beloved coaches.
Defensive line coach, weightlifting coach and dropout prevention teacher Doug Garrity, 27, died at 1 p.m., March 22, at Doctors Hospital after being thrown from the backseat of a 2001 Ford truck just before midnight March 21.
“Coach Garrity was well liked by about everybody,” Braden River Principal Jim Pauley said. “He was always willing to do whatever was needed by a student or staff (member). He was a good person. It’s unfortunate that in an early stage of life he was taken.”
Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Lt. Chris Miller said the single-vehicle accident occurred at 11:50 p.m., March 21, at the onramp to Interstate 75 at State Road 681 in Nokomis. The truck, driven by Braden River head football coach Josh Hunter, veered off the road and overturned after Hunter failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, Miller said.
Hunter and fellow passengers Matthew Braselton, 26, of Bradenton, and James E. Hunter, of Myakka City, were uninjured. Only Josh Hunter and Braselton, the driver and front seat passenger, were wearing seatbelts, Miller said.
News of the accident spread quickly throughout the school as players reached out to one another through text messages and phone calls. Friends and family members wrote messages to Garrity on his Facebook page, and Pirate families opened their doors as Garrity’s players struggled with the realization that they would no longer see their coach walking through the halls, working out in the weight room or patrolling the sidelines.
“He was like one of us,” Pirates kicker Kadin Kerns said to his mother, Kelly, after learning the news. “He worked out right along with us, and I’m going to miss him saying, ‘How’s it going Kernsie?’ Coach Garrity was like our big brother.”
On the sidelines, Garrity was an intense, focused figure, a leader by example and in many ways, embodied the spirit and resolve of the Pirates football team.
“It was just a pleasure to work alongside him,” Braden River Assistant Coach Greg Kerns said. “He was fun, he made it fun and he loved to be a part of the kids’ lives. The kids loved him too, especially on the defense and the defensive line.”
Manatee County Public Schools’ district crisis team and other counselors were on campus at Braden River High School all day Monday to talk with students and faculty. Pauley said school officials had met with members of the school’s football team.
“This is only our fourth year, and this is the first time I’ve ever had a staff member, during the school year, have an accident like this,” Principal Jim Pauley said. “It’s tough on everyone.”
The FHP did draw blood from Josh Hunter at the time of the accident and have sent those samples to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for blood-alcohol testing. No charges or arrests have been made, Miller said.
Following the accident, Josh Hunter resigned as head coach from the Braden River Pirates. After the summer break, he resigned from his teaching post. On Oct. 29, he surrended to authorities and has been charged with DUI manslaughter.
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Coats for kids
Knights of Columbus Councils are helping children in need by providing coats to children in their communities through the order’s Coats for Kids program.
Santa and his elf made a surprise stop Dec. 13, at WineStyles, in San Marco Plaza, by Harley-Davidson motorcycle, during the store’s weekly Friday night wine-tasting event.
Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club ventured Dec. 4 to Orlando, to view holiday decorations at the Grand Floridian and to have lunch at Downtown Disney.