Brandon Fritz of Melbourne, Florida was killed in a car accident on Sunday, March 25 when the vehicle he was riding in crashed, causing him to fly out of the window. Five of the 15-year-old’s friends, including 16-year-old Zachary Roy, who was driving at the time of the accident, were injured in the crash. An investigation into the car accident revealed that it may have been caused by a tire problem. Investigators have yet to determine whether a manufacturing error may have been at fault.
According to the accident report by the Florida Highway Patrol, the car’s other occupants were Lucious McKay, 17, of Bayside High School; Dymond Thomas, 15, of Heritage High School; Alexander Hartfield, 15, of Eau Gallie High School; and Michael McCauley, 15, also of Eau Gallie High School. The group was driving back from a March Madness basketball tournament in Orlando, which they entered as members of the Brevard Elite AAU traveling basketball organization. Roy, Thomas, McCauley, Hartfield and Fritz were in the winning 10th grade division. Alcohol or drugs are not suspected as factors in the crash.
Investigators determined that the tread separated from a rear tire of the Chevy Tahoe as Roy drove on Interstate 95 in Melbourne at approximately 11:44 p.m. on Sunday. Roy lost control of the vehicle, which flipped over several times and hit a Mazda before coming to rest of the shoulder of the highway. Fritz was projected through a window and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical workers. The Mazda that was struck in the accident contained a passenger and driver, who were both treated for minor injuries following the accident.
Fritz was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. His friends later told deputies that Fritz had not been wearing a seat belt because he gave his seat to a friend. “Another kid came along and Brandon was a nice guy and said ‘I will sit in the back,'” explained a friend. “There was no seat belt or anything.” Fritz was the oldest of three siblings and has left behind an 11-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister.
Fritz was on spring break from Eau Gallie High School, where he played defensive line on the football team and power forward on the basketball team. He was a freshman at the school, which will be offering grief counseling to students when they return from spring break. Derek Smith, the athletic director at Bayside High School said that he had talked to coaches from the other schools as well as Alexander Hartfied and Lucious McKay. He reported that everyone is “fine physically, but mentally are not doing good with the loss of a good friend and teammate.”
“I heard about it at 8 a.m…. my friend called and I just broke down and cried and hugged my mom,” said Janiel Garcia, who played basketball with Fritz. “Hoops was his passion. He played a little bit of football but he was a basketball player. He had the heart of a basketball player.”