Community coping with death of teens hit by car

2 Bradford High School students killed Friday night walking on State Road 21


HAWTHORNE, Fla. – The tragic deaths of two teens hit and killed Friday while walking along State Road 21 continued to weigh heavily on the minds of the Melrose community Monday night.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 16-year-old Matthew Warren and 16-year-old John Ziegenfuss were hit by a car just south of 31st Street in Bradford County about 10:30 p.m. Friday. The driver of that car, 38-year-old Stephen Bryan, has not been charged in the crash, but the FHP is still investigating.

According to the FHP report, Bryan was driving with his wife and three children at the time of the accident.

John's mother was emotional Monday morning in a phone interview, fighting back tears as she spoke about her son. Friends who knew the two boys said they can't believe this happened.

"It's one of the hardest scenes we have to respond to. Anytime children are involved," said Lt. George Konkel with the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. "I've been doing this for 21 years, and it never goes away. It's a difficult scene to go to, and when you go home, you want to hug your child tighter the next day. We hate to do it. We hate giving the death notifications, but it's part of the job."

Deputies believe the two teens may have been walking near the edge of the road when they were hit. FHP is investigating the crash, and the Bradford County Sheriff's Office assisted with the call

Konkel said the road where the boys were killed has no sidewalks, and it's very dark.

"The problems you have in the rural areas with pedestrians -- the risk factors with pedestrian accidents is lack of sidewalks, poor lighting -- obviously there's no street lights here -- and people not wearing visible clothing," Konkel said.

Which is why Konkel said it's important to follow a few safety tips when heading out for a walk or bike ride, including wearing protective clothing, like a vest or reflective bracelet.

Konkel said SR 21 is very busy, too, with nearly 500 to 600 drivers on any given night. He said facing traffic while you walk is a smart idea, too.

"That way you can see, you can pick up a lot better," Konkel said. "When you're watching the traffic coming toward you, you can take evasive action."

Funeral arrangements are being made for both boys, and GoFundMe accounts have been set up for their families.

Donate to Warren's family | Donate to Ziegenfuss' family