Monday, 26 March 2007
11:56:43 PM (GMT)
Steven Corso, football fanatic and lover of the outdoors, listened to his mother
harp on the importance of seat belts ever since he was 10. That's when a seat belt
had saved her life in a car accident.
Over the phone about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, he heard another familiar mantra.
"Be good and be careful," Mary Zajac told her son.
But he was 16 now, a "typical teenager" who thought he was invincible, his mother
said. He didn't heed her advice.
The Pasco County teenager wasn't wearing his seat belt when he was ejected about two
hours later from a Dodge Neon in north Pinellas County, a Florida Highway Patrol
Corso died at Bayfront Medical Center Wednesday at 12:25 p.m., transforming the
high-speed car crash inquiry into a death investigation, said Florida Highway Patrol
spokesman Larry Coggins.
Twelve hours earlier, Corso was among four passengers packed into Richard Walter
David Zwack's red Neon as it flew west down Pasaje Avenue. Authorities said Zwack,
19, lost control of the car after speeding through a stop sign on Dixie Highway. It
spun around for nearly a quarter of a mile, witnesses said, discharging passengers as
it collided with two utility poles, several mailboxes, a chain-link fence and a
Coggins said Cynthia Rivera, 17, of New Port Richey and Alex Pitre, 17, of Tarpon
Springs, who sat in the back seat along with Corso, were both flown to Bayfront. They
remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday afternoon, Coggins said.
Another helicopter flew the front-seat passenger, Jessica Nichols, 17, of New Port
Richey to Tampa General Hospital. Coggins said Nichols had several broken bones and
was scheduled to be discharged sometime Wednesday.
The only one to emerge from the crash relatively uninjured was the driver,
authorities said. Zwack recently relocated from Minnesota to Port Richey, where he
lives with Nichols, Coggins said.
Zwack and Nichols were the only ones wearing seat belts, he said.
To people living in the sleepy enclave on the fringes of Tarpon Springs, the red Neon
seemed to appear like a slingshot.
Inside 1610 Wilmar Avenue, Soula Savopoulos, 61, was getting ready go to bed a little
before 11 p.m. when a bellowing noise drew her down into the darkness.
"Boom!" she said. "Like a bomb - my God."
Outside, she said she slowly began to make out the carnage strewn along the edge of
"I heard the noise, I see the neighbors, I hear voices," she said. "Bodies here and
bodies there already - within seconds."
"It sounded like a giant bomb going off," said Price Pelt, 35, who lives next door to
Savopoulos. "Complete chaos ensued. People were running around trying to help the
injured; I helped a young girl who was lying face-down in a pool of blood."
By Wednesday morning, Progress Energy crews had replaced the two utility poles and
restored electric service, but investigators still had a long strip of the street
Corso was supposed to spend this week preparing for his return to football. Instead,
his mother is grappling with the loss of her only child.
Corso was to turn 17 in June. He grew up with a single mom. He bonded with his
grandfather like a son. A year ago, he finished a drug and alcohol rehab program and
his GED program, Zajac said.
"The program did beautifully for him," she said. "Everything was "Yes sir, no sir.'
He dreamed of attending college. He stocked groceries, until recently, at a
Tuesday night, he was excited as he talked to Zajac about signing up for a community
football team. He hadn't donned pads and a helmet since leaving Gulf High School.
"He could have made pro," his mother said.
Then he went joy riding with friends, she said. He had always been an outgoing child,
always had so many friends.
"I love you," Zajac told him before they hung up.
"I love you, Mamma," her son said. "I'll call you later."