Pleasant memories ease the grief that weighs heavily on Robbie Bedell's family but cannot dispel it. Relatives, friends and neighbors added to those memories during the emotionally agonizing days after he was killed by a car that careened into a crowd of young people in a Tampa suburb last week.
"He was an outgoing, happy-go-lucky kid," said Bedell's father, Robert. "We were always proud of him. But so many people have told us things we didn't know about how he lightened up their lives. Those things have helped carry us through."
Robbie Bedell was 19 when he died. You may have read the story about the accident in Brandon. The car that hit him was driven by Bruce Kimball, a diver who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics and is a candidate for this year's team. Kevin Gossic, 16, also was killed and six others were injured.
Kimball has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and is free on $10,000 bail.
According to the Hillsborough County sheriff's office, his car was traveling 70-90 miles an hour down a dead end street at about 11 p.m. when it bounced off three parked cars and then left a trail of broken bodies before skidding to a halt. Neither the driver or his two passengers were injured.
Kimball, who has an extensive record of traffic violations, has admitted drinking four beers before the accident but said he was going only 30-40 mph as he took a friend home.
"His car ended up more than 300 feet from the point of impact," said the victim's father. "Kimball and his friends had an eight-pack of beer in the car. They said they'd bought it hours earlier. But the only one that wasn't empty was still cold."
The Bedells are understandably disturbed about Kimball's Olympic status. The accident does not effect his eligibility for the Olympic trials and he intends to compete. They feel he is not a fit representative of the U.S.
They are right.
Florida and Michigan police records show Kimball has little regard for his own safety or the safety of others. Between 1983-86 he received six traffic citations. In 1986 his Michigan license was revoked, then reinstated in May, 1987.
Kimball's supporters say he should be allowed to get on with his life. That is fine -- after the very serious charges against him are settled. While results of blood alcohol tests have not been officially released, the Tampa Tribune has reported that the 25-year-old diver registered double the legal limit.
Pending further investigation, the charges against him could be escalated. Should he win a diving medal he could wind up wearing it in jail. If the Olympic committee won't remove him from competition then he should remove himself.
Kimball may be devastated by the havoc he wrought. He will have to live with it until the day he dies. Whatever the burden, it won't be as heavy as that of parents who, because their only son's body had been torn apart, could only have him cremated.
"Some people," said Robert Bedell, "are asking what all those kids were doing out there. It was a place they got together regularly. Rather than get shagged out of mall parking lots they would go to what they called the Spot. They aren't druggies or drinkers. It's only half-mile or so from our house.
"One of the boys had a leg almost severed but reattached. He's a soccer player who won't ever play again. One of the girls may lose a leg. She was real active in aerobics and track.
"Robbie was a three-year letterman in baseball at Brandon High School. He lettered once in basketball. He just finished his freshman year at the University of South Florida.
"He had a a summer job as a waiter. The night of the accident he got off work a little early. He and a friend went out to the Spot. He was just saying his see-you-laters when he was hit."
At the memorial service some 500 people paid their respects. One of them was Linwood Nelson, Brandon High School principal.
"He told us that, if every student was like Robbie, there wouldn't be any need for a principal."
For Robert Bedell, his wife Terry and their daughter Suzanne, that is one more pleasant memory of a son who brightened the lives of others.