The families of Chase Coyner and Matthew Powers receive memorials from State Rep. Tommy Gregory.
Scott Coyner knows the sadness he will feel every time he drives past the new memorial signs placed at the site where his son, Chase Coyner, and his friend Matthew Powers died in a car accident Sept. 15, 2018.
But the memorial signs — reading Chase Coyner & Matthew Powers Memorial Roundabout — also will be a reminder of how much the community loved the boys, who were both Lakewood Ranch High students.
“This community and everybody stepping up, it tells you how tight knit the community is," Scott Coyner said May 14 during a dedication ceremony for the signs. "It was a tragedy for everybody, not just us. We had people from all these different neighborhoods coming in to support us and help us. We're honored to have (the memorial). Their names are on it, and always, forever, it will be their roundabout.”
Scott Coyner said he appreciates the addition of a roundabout at the spot and the effort to make that section of road safer.
Dan Powers, the father of Matthew Powers, said his family appreciates the memorial and the dedication ceremony.
“Words can’t do it justice," Dan Powers said. "It’s such a huge honor the state has done this for the boys and has given them a legacy.”
Scott Coyner said after the accident at the intersection of Pope Road and State Road 64 that the community pulled together to see a memorial happen, as well as to see changes that would impact the safety of that stretch of road.
The May 14 dedication ceremony was led by Rep. Tommy Gregory of District 72.
The ceremony began at the entrance to the Mill Creek subdivision on the lawn outside the CounTreeWide Realty office. Terry Courter, Pastor of the Living Lord Lutheran Church, led a brief ceremony.
Speaking were Gregory, FDOT's Andy Orrell, Scott Coyner, and Dan Powers. The Powers and Coyner families were presented with plaques.
The group then moved to the the roundabout, where the families removed a tarp to unveil one of the memorial signs. Family members included Dan Powers' wife Rebecca Powers and their children, Robert and Katie Powers, and Scott Coyner's son, Cory Coyner. Scott Coyner's wife Shayleen Coyner was unable to attend. Others present included county officials and friends.
Gregory said concerns from the community were the genesis of the roundabout.
“We thought once we had finished construction, the dedication would be the right thing to do, it would be time for us to honor Chase and Matt," Gregory said. "It’s also a time for us to remember our commitment at the local, state, and federal levels.”
Gregory said his staff, including Legislative Aide Kevin Fleming and District Aide Carolyn Kolenda, were key to the effort to recognize the boys with a memorial.
Orrell said the Florida Department of Transportation was proud of the opportunity to partner with Gregory and "to make sure that this roadway is safer, and that no one traveling down State Road 64 will ever forget both of these young men, as we celebrate the public unveiling of the Chase Coyner and Matthew Powers Memorial.”
The accident took place at the intersection of State Road 64 and Pope Road near the entrance to Mill Creek.
The boys, both students at Lakewood Ranch High, were headed to the homecoming dance at the time of the accident.
At that time, the intersection had no traffic control device. Thirteen crashes had taken place near the same spot the prior year, in 2017.
“It definitely means a lot — words can't even describe how much it means — because I know that they didn't die in vain — they died, and are saving people's lives, because the roundabout was put in,” Katie Powers said.
Maguire Fraatz said he enjoyed a friendship with Matthew that involved multiple sleepovers, constant video games late at night, and frequent conversations.
“It was really inspiring," Fraatz said. "He was very fun to be around, and everyone around him, he made them smile. It felt good to see that our community is going to remember Matthew, that people are thinking of him and his family, that people that are behind us and can help us remember him.”
Scott Coyner remembered seeing the crosses community members had placed at the site.
Members of the two families said in healing they have become “one big family.” Although Matt Powers and Chase Coyner were friends, the two families had not met before the accident.
Sarasota resident Bridgette Bach said Chase Coyner was her best friend in her junior and senior year of high school, when she first moved to the area.
“We were close," Bach said. "We did everything together.”
She called Chase Coyner “the sweetest person and said it was important to her that safety measures were being taken at the site.
Lakewood Ranch High Principal Dustin Dahlquist, who didn't take over his post until after the accident, said he has come to know the two families extremely well. He said the school has a memorial walk, as well as scholarships named for both Matthew Powers and Chase Coyner.
“We do hope the naming of the roundabout does bring some awareness to traffic safety here in east Manatee County and throughout our community," Dahlquist said. "These two students touched a lot of lives in the short time they were with us, and we're just here to honor their memory.”
“I’m just awestruck the state of Florida has taken and set aside this as their own little piece of the world," Dan Powers said. "So this will always be their roundabout.”
Also in attendance were Commissioners Misty Servia and Reggie Bellamy; Manatee School Board Member Gina Messenger and Deputy Superintendent Dan Evans.
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