Three years since Land O’ Lakes teen died in car crash
By Steve Lee
LAND O’ LAKES — A few tears flowed at a cemetery gathering in remembrance of a Land O’ Lakes teen who died three years ago. But the mood on Dec. 30 was anything but somber when family and friends celebrated what would have been Krista Sellars’ 17th birthday. They shared stories and plenty of laughs at the Trinity Gardens gravesite.
“We’ve spent enough down time,” said Cathi Schmidt, Sellars’ mother. “I can hear her now. ‘Oh, c’mon. Get over it.’ She would not want anyone to be sad.”
Friends of Sellars, who was killed in a car accident on Jan. 9, 2007, just days after turning 14, have gotten together each year since on her birthday to share memories.
Bags of food from Moe’s Southwest Grill — Sellars’ favorite — served as centerpiece of a human circle on the grass in front of her headstone. Schmidt and Felicia Greer, Schmidt’s mother and Sellars’ grandmother, smiled as they listened to classmates recount the good times they had with their departed daughter and granddaughter.
“It says to me that she made some great choices in her life,” said Schmidt of her daughter, her eyes scanning the circle of teens. “It makes my heart feel good. I have an angel and a million kids here.”
Best friend, Caty Logrono, looked at a portrait of Sellars and herself engraved in the lower left corner of the granite headstone.
“That’s probably my favorite one of us,” said Logrono of the photo of herself and Sellars taken when both were eighth-graders at Pine View Middle. “That was a fun day. We got all ready to take pictures and put on makeup and stuff.” Today Logrono is a senior at Land O’ Lakes High.
Some in the circle described the blonde Sellars as “bubbly and upbeat.”
“She was the kind of person that no matter what mood you were in, she’d put a smile on your face,” said Ryan Conigliaro, a freshman at the University of Central Florida. “And she was great at giving advice.”
Like dozens of teens, longtime friend Andrew Krouse, a freshman at Pasco-Hernando Community College, has come to Sellars’ annual “birthday” celebration every year since she died.
“She’s still here right now,” Krause said. “Look at the impact she had. We’re still here together because of her.”
On Jan. 9, 2007, Sellars was a passenger in a Toyota coupe driven by boyfriend Joshua Parsons, traveling north on U.S. 41 just south of Land O’ Lakes High. The car smashed into the back of a pickup truck and Sellars, tiny at just 85 pounds, died at the scene. Parsons, who was never charged by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, suffered minor injuries.
Sellars was a popular student at Pine View Middle, a cheerleader and student council member.
“I have learned a lot through her,” Parsons said of his former girlfriend at the gravesite gathering. “I remember her telling me what doesn’t destroy you strengthens you.”
Former Pine View principal Dave Estabrook said teachers expressed disbelief when he told them of the fatal crash, especially Sellars’ favorite teachers, Tina Stavrou and the late George Bastable, who died last July.
“It was quite a time at Pine View as far as the ill effects it had at the school,” Estabrook said. “She was a great kid. She was very positive. She had great relations with everybody.”
For nearly three years, a memorial on U.S. 41 marked the spot of the fatal accident. Recently, however, it was taken down due to road construction.
“I don’t go by it,” Schmidt said of that painful reminder of the place where her daughter died.
The memorial was taken care of by Sellars’ many friends. Over the years it displayed white or pink crosses with wooden or medal signs in tribute to the much-loved teen. And always there were flowers and photos of the girl who would forever be 14 from friends who would never forget her.
The Krista Marie Sellars Memorial Scholarship Fund awarded its first scholarships last April to Shelby Smith and Melany Ospina. The Land O’ Lakes High graduates received full scholarships to a Florida college or university.
To raise money for the memorial fund, a golf tourney is planned for June 17 at Tampa Palms Country Club. To sponsor a hole, make a donation or to play in the four-person, best-ball scramble, call (813) 569-8697.
By Caitlin Logrono
On wings of an angel, away she flies
Her smile forever in my head and heart,
Though she stays close, she is up in the skies,
Earned her wings and a halo, when we did part
Now free as a bird, through clouds she soars.
A glimpse of her face I sometimes will catch,
As she whispers, “Best friend, I’m always yours.”
My angel, the words could not better match.
My guide and my hope, she never has left me.
My dim light at the end of that long hall,
Keeps me thinking there is so much I could be.
Still she saves me when I’m ready to fall.
An angel for sure, her friendship I cherish.
Though she is gone, our bond will never perish.
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