Community grieves for lost youths

Evan Brandies, center, leans on friends while crying in the courtyard at Trinity Catholic School in Ocala on Monday morning before the start of the service for Jacob James Casey. Casey was one of the five young men killed in a car crash Saturday at the Greystone airstrip near Jumbolair.

DOUG ENGLE/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 12:03 a.m.

OCALA - They were ceremonies marked by tears and heartache, but they were also calls for healing and an a halt to bitterness. For many, Monday was the first chance to share the pain and tears at two services for the five young men who lost their lives in a car crash early Saturday.

Petite Samantha Hall had a special burden as she approached the podium as if weighed down with grief. She picked up the microphone and faced the crowd of more than 1,000.

"Some of you may know me and some of you may not," she said with a shakey voice. "I'm Josh's girlfriend."

Joshua Ammirato, 18, was the driver of the BMW M5 that flew off the end of the Greystone airstrip, slammed into a large tree and burst into flames, killing him and his four passengers: James Devon Hime, 19, Dustin J. Dawe, 19, Isaac Rubin, 20, and Jacob James Casey, 19.

"When I hear things, it makes me angry and I want to lash out," she said.

"I know you're angry. But it's not fair. It's tragic. And it's not his fault. Don't blame it on him," she said, crying.

"Please remember the good not the bad. Please don't bring anyone hurt," she pleaded.

The mourners, young and old, had filled up the Klein Conference Center at the Central Florida Community College, with some spilling onto the plaza outside, for a candlelight vigil.

Hall's shaky voice evoked more sobbing from the crowd.

Teens and young adults cried. They held each other and lit each other's small, white candles.

"We don't think it's real," said Taylor Kenyon, who graduated from North Marion High School and knew Devon, Dustin, Jacob and Josh well. Devon, she said, was her first boyfriend in second grade. "They were all great people."

The mayor and speakers from the Ocala Police Department, Foundation for Grace, the County Commission and the Marion County Community Crisis Response Team, took the podium one by one and gave the teens words of advice and offers of support.

They told them it was OK to cry. It was OK to be emotional, and they prayed with them.

Among the parents and families of the men, Art Dawe, was the most outspoken.

"I loved my son. I know the pain and I don't want anybody to suffer this pain," he said. He spoke in between bouts of sobbing and tears. But he spoke. "I carry his umbilical cord on my keychain, so he's with me every time I get in the car," he said.

"Don't be afraid to hug your children and tell them you love them," Dawe said repeatedly.

He took comfort, he said, in that he had hugged Dustin and told him that he loved him the night before the crash.

Earlier Monday, the gymnasium at Trinity Catholic was packed for a memorial Mass.

Classes were suspended for a few hours as students, former students, staff and others from the community joined the family of Jacob James Casey, a Trinity graduate.

Each of the five young men was remembered in prayer. A board of photos along with Casey's framed jerseys from football and baseball bearing the "No. 2" were on display.

Toward the end of the memorial Mass, there was a video presentation containing various photos of Casey growing up. It was too much for many in the audience, including Casey's father, Brian, who left the building along with others in the crowd.

Chad Casey, Jacob's uncle, thanked the community for all the support. "It's now that we start to heal," he said.

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