Fellow students, family members recall the special attributes of the two young men lost in accident on State Road 64.
Lakewood Ranch High School sophomore Matthew Powers hadn’t quite grown into his feet yet, but he liked to joke about it.
Last school year, he wore a size 15 shoe to band class, just to make his friends laugh.
“He waddled around in them. He was always goofy,” fellow marching band student Gianna Hagopian said, breaking into a grin. “He always put a smile on our faces.”
Powers, 15, had grown about 4 inches, to a height of more than 5-foot-10, over the summer, helping him better fill his size 12 shoes.
A two-car crash Sept. 15 at the intersection of State Road 64 and Pope Road took the life of Powers and his friend Chase Coyner, a 17-year-old senior at Lakewood Ranch High. Coyner had picked up Powers to give him a ride to the homecoming dance. Coyner was westbound on S.R. 64 when he turned his 2012 Honda Accord into an oncoming pickup truck driven by Lake Placid's Dallas Gross, 39.
Although Gross suffered only minor injuries, 12-year-old Alya Gross, was taken to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg in critical condition. The hospital would not release Alya Gross's condition on Tuesday at press time.
Both boys died on the scene.
Dan Powers said his son had met Coyner during a French class last school year and spent the summer playing against each other remotely on Xbox games.
"That's how they became friends," Dan Powers said.
While Matthew Powers loved his involvement with band, Coyner knew CPR and had aspired to serve in the U.S. Air Force. He received his “Stop the Bleed” certification Aug. 30, learning to apply a tourniquet during a special class taught at the high school.
“If anything ever happened and no one else was around, I would be able to help,” Coyner told the East County Observer.
Both were good-natured and well-liked by their peers.
Powers had made wearing a Hawaiian shirt his signature look every Friday at Lakewood Ranch High School after first wearing one for a band program in December 2017. He shared his Hawaiian shirt collection with fellow band members during during band camp at Florida State University over the summer and during homecoming week’s “Tourist” day.
“He thought it was funny,” Dan Powers said.
Although Powers played the clarinet in marching band — an instrument he did not want when assigned it in sixth grade at Haile Middle School — he performed it well and had been in search of private music lessons to enhance his skills. He taught himself to play the tenor saxophone in November 2017 and played that instrument with Lakewood’s Jazz Band. He had played cello, which he loved, for one season in middle school, and had taken one year of piano as a 6 year old.
“He was very talented,” Dan Powers said. “He could hear a song, sit down at a piano — give him five minutes and he could have the melody.”
“He wanted to be a band director,” said Powers' mom, Rebecca Powers. “His goal was to attend Florida State, be in the marching band and be a music major.”
During backyard Nerf gun wars, he would team up with his 11-year-old sister, Katie, to face their brother, Robert, 13.
He attended Living Lord Lutheran Church and he would help out at the church whenever possible.
Rebecca Powers said her son was happy and nice to people. He stood up for his friends when he saw them being picked on, and those are the traits she hopes people will celebrate and replicate.
“At 15 years old, you haven’t had a chance to live a life that’s a legacy,” she said. “I want to make sure he has an opportunity to have that legacy. My hope would be people would take that and try to live a little like Matthew and carry them in their heart.”
Services for Matthew Powers will be held at Living Lord Lutheran Church, 11107 Palmbrush Trail, Bradenton. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 and the funeral service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. He will be buried at Sarasota National Cemetery, Dan Powers said.
A funeral service for Chase Coyner has been set for 10 a.m. Sept. 29 at Woodland Community Church, 9607 E. State Road 70, Bradenton. Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory is handling arrangements.
*This story was updated Sept. 19.