One year later, family hold vigil in memory of Tampa motorcyclist killed by drunk driver
TAMPA, Fla. - Exactly one year ago, a Tampa motorcyclist was killed when a drunk driver turned into his path. Thursday night, the family of 33-year-old Wilfredo Gonzalez-Santos gathered to remember the son, brother, and friend they lost so senselessly.
"We're here today to celebrate Will's life," said his mother, Iris Santos, surrounded by flickering candles. "I know we all miss him."
Like those candles, Will's family said he brought light to everyone around him.
"I know that everybody here has him in a very special place in your hearts," Iris Santos said.
February 3rd, 2021, prosecutors say Laramie Vantreeck was driving drunk in this pickup truck on Solano Bay Loop in Tampa. He turned in front of Santos' motorcycle, running over him and dragging him into the parking lot of the Preserve at Mobbly Bay Apartments.
Santos died on the way to the hospital.
This week, Vantreeck pled guilty to DUI manslaughter in exchange for three years in prison.
"I forgive you," Will's stepfather said in the courtroom, "and like my wife said, I hope you can learn from this. I don't have no hate for you."
"Will's family is finding incredible strength through faith, remembering the many ways Will, also known as "Goony," made every moment an occasion.
MORE: Family members of man killed by DUI driver offer forgiveness before sentencing
"He taught us love, how to love one another," said Yadira Flores.
"You could never be sad around him no matter how hard you tried," said Maria Cardenas.
Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Will was passionate about video gaming and riding his motorcycle. He filled any room with laughter.
"He was just so funny but loud and everything that he did was loud," Flores said.
Most of all, he adored his mother. Faith is what helped her forgive the man who took her son away.
"When you have God in your heart and you have that unbelievable faith, God does things in you that me, myself, I cannot even understand," Iris Santos said. "I am smiling. I am acting like nothing happened. God does this transformation and it's unbelievable."
Will's family hopes that his picture, his story, and their loss is a reminder to all drivers to stop and think of what's at stake.
"Don't drink and drive," Iris Santos said.
"We don't want to lose any more kids, really," Flores said.
Will's family agreed to Vantreeck's plea deal. After he serves his time in prison, he'll spend another six years on probation. Will's mother hopes his sentence teaches him a lesson and that he returns to society as a better person.