SPRING HILL, Fla. (FOX 13) - Classmates are mourning the loss of one of their own after a Springstead High School senior was killed on his way to school.
Florida Highway Patrol says 17-year-old Eric Parisi was on his Suzuki motorcycle Tuesday morning when he failed to stop at a red light at the intersection of Mariner and Northcliffe boulevards. Troopers say he collided with a driver making a left turn with a green traffic arrow.
Parisi died at the scene. The news quickly made it to Springstead, less than a mile away, leaving students and staff stunned.
"He was about to embark on a second part of his life and unfortunately, it got cut short," said Principal Carmine Rufa.
Rufa said about 50 students met with social workers on campus, affected by the loss of their classmate. He knew Parisi well, as a mature senior who helped with electronics for the theater and took photos of students of the month.
"Helping me during those Parent Grade Level nights, he goes, 'What time do you need me there? I can be there earlier if you need me,'" Rufa recalled. "Always willing to help out, first with a smile, just a great kid. And you can have an intelligent conversation with him. You know you're doing something right when they're growing up and getting more mature."
Parisi's parents tell us he worked at McDonalds and enjoyed playing the violin. He had his sights set on becoming an aircraft mechanic and was considering going into the military.
Some of Parisi's closest riding friends gathered Tuesday afternoon at the scene of the crash. They scribbled messages in chalk on the sidewalk at a time when it's hard to find the right words to say.
"I love the dude," said Charles Eady. "I really did love him and it broke my heart. It still breaks my heart. I miss him."
Parisi's friends are finding some comfort in memories they have of the fun-loving guy they knew as "Birdman."
"In school, there was no person that he couldn't put a smile on their face. He got good grades all the time," said Garrett Delk.
"He was just such a great kid and so nice, no matter if you were sad or down, he'd always make you laugh," said Mickey Dono.
"If anyone was in need or needed help with anything, he'd be right there for you," said Hunter Heinz. "You could always count on him."
They vow to keep Parisi's memory alive on two wheels, the place he was happiest, while all-too-painfully aware of the dangers of the road. They're planning a memorial ride and designing shirts to honor the rider they lost.
"We're gonna ride for him out of respect, try to keep the streets safe," Eady added. "He was one of the best ones we had. And, it's a shame but Heaven needed him more than we did, I guess."