LEESBURG, Fla.—A Umatilla motorcyclist was killed Tuesday when a sedan made a left turn and collided with him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
A 2013 Hyundai Sonata, being driven by a 91-year-old Apopka man, was eastbound on County Road 452, in the left turn lane, at Sandpiper Drive, near Leesburg, shortly before noon when it made a left turn in the direct path of a 2002 Kawasaki motorcycle being ridden by a 56-year-old Umatilla man, FHP Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.
The Umatilla man was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, where he was pronounced deceased, Garcia said. The Apopka man and his passenger, a 76-year-old woman, also of Apopka, were not injured and remained on scene. The crash closed County Road 452 for more than four hours and reopened around 4 p.m. Tuesday.
LEESBURG, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash that killed a motorcyclist late Tuesday morning near Leesburg and shut down County Road 452.
The crash occurred on County Road 452 near Sandpiper Drive, shortly before noon, and involved a Hyundai Sonata and a 2002 Kawasaki motorcycle, FHP Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in an email. The driver and the passenger in the Sonata were not injured and the motorcyclist was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares and pronounced deceased.
LEESBURG, Fla.—A 94-year-old Leesburg man was killed Sunday afternoon when the SUV he was driving was struck by a car that ran a traffic light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The man was driving a 2015 Subaru Forester eastbound on Plantation Boulevard and was attempting to make a left turn on U.S. Highway 27 when he collided with a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu that was “unable to stop in time for the traffic signal,” around 4:15 p.m., Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.
The front of the Malibu struck the left side of the Forester and injured both drivers. The Malibu driver, a 32-year-old Leesburg man, was taken to UF Health Leesburg Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and the driver of the Forester was transported to South Lake Hospital-Blue Cedar, where he later died from his injuries, Garcia said.
EUSTIS, Fla.—An event to benefit a Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year is scheduled for Saturday.
What started as chest pain in 2022 turned into a terrifying diagnosis last summer for LCSO Cpl. Adam Tytler. In November 2022, Tytler went to a cardiologist for ongoing chest pain, and after a EKG showed his heart was in good shape, the cardiologist told him the pain was likely gastrointestinal. The next month, on Christmas Eve, Tytler discovered a swollen lymph node on his neck and by February the lymph node had not gotten any better. He was also suffering from a sinus infection at the time and went to his primary care doctor for treatment and mentioned the lymph node. The doctor chalked it up to the infection, but during the spring Tytler’s chest pain continued and had also moved to his back, and then he began to find swollen lymph nodes on his chest.
Tytler went through a battery of tests and upon reviewing the results, his doctor said it was likely cancer. Tytler sought a second opinion from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and his fears were confirmed when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma in June 2023.
Tytler, his wife Tiffany, and two daughters, Shay 17, Lily, 14, are currently splitting their time between Mount Dora and Tampa for treatment and it is taking a financial toll on the family while already dealing with an emotional roller coaster. Tytler said he came forward with his struggle because cancer affects millions of people and often they go through it alone.
“I would have given up if it weren’t for my faith, my family and the support from the school resource deputy unit,” Tytler said. “I only wanted for those who are struggling to know they are not alone. Not now. Not ever and to never give up.”
Tytler’s struggle inspired Shannon Cook, organizer of Lake County’s annual Back the Blue Walk, and LCSO Lt. Kristin Thompson to create the benefit scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at That Place, 925 North Bay Street, Eustis.
Dinners will be available for purchase, along with an auction of numerous items, including a Back the Blue basket with items from multiple Lake County law enforcement agencies, tickets to various events, like New Kids on the Block concert tickets and Richard Petty Driving Experience, along with a Yeti cooler packed with alcohol, various craft items made by local residents, a high-end fishing pole and numerous other items. A poker scramble is also scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Gator Harley-Davidson, 1745 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg, and will include five stops, ending at That Place, Cook told Inside Lake.
Tytler has spent nearly his entire adult life at LCSO, and most recently worked as a corporal in the school resource deputy unit. He prevented a shooting on the Eustis High School campus during the 2018-2019 school year and was awarded the Lake County Officer of the Year in 2019 for his efforts.
He said he is excited he has only one treatment left, and it has been a difficult journey. “Truthfully, it’s been challenging and difficult treatment-wise, not just for me but my family also,” Tytler said.
He will have to wait until after the new year to find out if he is cancer-free, he said.
Tytler told Inside Lake saying thank you to all those who have helped him, and contributed to the benefit will never be enough.
“My family and I are so appreciative and overwhelmed of the outpouring of love and support from everyone. Especially from people I’ve never met,” he said.
TAVARES, Fla.—In an unexpected twist Monday, a Leesburg man accused of gunning down his girlfriend last year pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon the same day jury selection for his trial was set to begin.
Alphonza Bryant, 41, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for killing Melissa Keonna Smith, 37, in the laundry room of her Leesburg home on Aug. 8, 2022.
Bryant was captured on video approaching Smith’s home, brandishing a firearm, and “engaging in a verbal altercation off-camera that culminated in a single gunshot,” Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William “Bill” Gladson’s office stated in a press release.
A witness told Leesburg Police Department Bryant tried to force his way in the laundry room while armed and the witness was, “compelled to leave the scene.” Bryant fired a single shot, killing Smith, fled the scene and dropped a gun.
Bryant was arrested two days after the murder for a violation of probation in a prior case and later charged with Smith’s murder after an “exhaustive investigation by Leesburg Police Department.”
“We hope these charges allow for some level of healing and relief for the family and friends of Ms. Smith,” LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi said after Bryant’s arrest last year. “We would especially like to thank our community for their assistance with this investigation.”
Bryant is currently in the Lake County Jail and will remain there until he is transferred to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.
“Eyewitness testimony serves as a crucial pillar in prosecuting any case, let alone a murder case. Bryant knew the evidence stacked against him would weave the narrative of truth for jurors to convict him,” Gladson said in a statement. “Acknowledging this grim reality, we are pleased the defendant was sentenced to 45 years in prison. We hope this helps to bring closure to the tragic loss suffered by Melissa Keonna Smith’s family.”
TAVARES, Fla.—The motorcyclist killed in an early morning crash Friday has been publicly identified.
Russell Pratt, 42, of Leesburg, was riding a 2019 Harley-Davidson northbound on U.S. Highway 441 and police believe he lost control of the bike west of Lakeshore Boulevard just before 1:45 a.m. Friday. The crash remains under investigation by Tavares Police Department.
Pratt was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, where he was pronounced deceased, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan said. The crash closed the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 441 for several hours and did not involve any other vehicles.
Numerous people shared their sorrow for the loss of Pratt, a father of three, on social media Friday. He was a graduate of Tavares High School.
TAVARES, Fla.—Tavares Police Department is investigating a crash that killed a motorcyclist early Friday morning.
A 42-year-old Leesburg man riding a 2019 Harley-Davidson crashed shortly before 1:45 a.m. on U.S. Highway 441, west of Lakeshore Boulevard. The man was transported to an area hospital where he later he died; he was not wearing a helmet.
The crash closed the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 441 for several hours and did not involve any other vehicles. Details of how the crash occurred are still under investigation, but police believe the man was riding northbound on U.S. Highway 441 when he lost control of the bike and crashed, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan said.
LEESBURG, Fla.—Dozens of vehicles lined both sides of Goose Prairie Road Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil held in remembrance of a teen who was killed in a crash Monday.
The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the names of both teens to Inside Lake Tuesday afternoon and loved ones and friends gathered to honor Michael Pasternak, 16, of Umatilla, who was the passenger in a Jeep Wrangler that overturned several times, killing him and the driver shortly before 8 p.m. Monday.
Lane Johnson, 17, of Leesburg, was driving the 2016 Wrangler eastbound on Goose Prairie Road near Felkins Road when he attempted to pass a 2005 Ford F-150 in a no-passing zone, shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.
The Wrangler entered the westbound lane and attempted to reenter the eastbound lane due to oncoming traffic. The rear of the Wrangler collided with the front of the F-150 and the Wrangler traveled onto the eastbound grass shoulder of the road. Johnson overcorrected, the Wrangler then traveled across both lanes, overturned several times and struck a wire fence, according to Crescenzi.
Johnson and Pasternak were pronounced deceased on the scene; they were both wearing their seatbelts. The teens were identified as adult males shortly after the crash by FHP and later confirmed to be teenagers in a media release Tuesday morning. Both teens’ next of kin were notified before their names were confirmed to Inside Lake.
The driver of the F-150 was not injured. His age and city were originally incorrect in the first media release; FHP later said he was a 38-year-old man from Umatilla.
Pasternak was a junior at Alee Academy Charter High School in Eustis and Director/Principal Cindy Emerick spoke to Inside Lake about him Tuesday afternoon. She described him as “always smiling” and he was “literally liked by everyone,” Emerick said.
“He had big plans,” Emerick said. “He was going to do something great.”
The school’s mantra is they are a “Fam-Alee” and the “Fam-Alee” bond between the students and faculty was apparent to Emerick Tuesday, she said.
“Our students had a rough day today. So did we,” she said.
Grief counselors were available on campus Tuesday and will continue to be available if needed, Emerick said.
LEESBURG, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol has released more information on a crash that killed two teens near Leesburg Monday night.
FHP said two adult males were killed Monday night, but an early Tuesday morning press release stated the crash victims were a 17-year-old male of Leesburg and a 16-year-old male of Umatilla.
The 17-year-old male was driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler eastbound on Goose Prairie Road when it attempted to pass a 2005 Ford F-150 in a no-passing zone shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.
The Wrangler entered the westbound lane and then tried to reenter the eastbound lane due to oncoming traffic. The right rear of the Wrangler collided with the front left of the F-150 and the Wrangler overcorrected, traveled across both lanes, overturned several times and struck a wire fence. The driver and the passenger, a 16-year-old male of Umatilla, were pronounced deceased on the scene. They were both wearing their seatbelts, Crescenzi said.
Inside Lake is working to confirm the identities of the teens.
The F-150 driver, a 38-year-old Umatilla man, was not injured. The crash remains under investigation.
LEESBURG, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash that killed two men shortly before 8 p.m. Monday night.
A 2016 Jeep Wrangler was eastbound on Goose Prairie Road when it attempted to pass a 2005 Ford F-150 in a no-passing zone near Felkins Road, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.
The Wrangler entered the westbound land and then tried to reenter the eastbound lane due to oncoming traffic. The right rear of the Wrangler collided with the front left of the F-150 and the Wrangler overcorrected, traveled across both lanes, overturned several times and struck a wire fence. The driver and the passenger, both adult males, were pronounced deceased on the scene, Crescenzi. Positive identifications of the men were pending at press time.
The F-150 driver, a 55-year-old Leesburg man, was not injured. The crash remains under investigation.