LAKELAND, Fla. - One moment, a young man was walking beside his friend along County Road 540A in Lakeland, and the next moment he heard a loud thump. He looked over, and his friend had disappeared, seeing only the red tail lights of a truck riding off into the darkness.
Polk County Sheriff's investigators said Blake Dowdy, 16, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver Sunday evening, as he was walking along the roadside with his friend. The witness told deputies Dowdy was thrown dozens of feet into a ditch.
"It was very tragic," said Melissa Sanders, a cafeteria worker at Kathleen Senior High School. She said Dowdy was well-known among a tight knit group at the school, because he attended the smaller Aerospace Academy.
"They take it very hard," Sanders said. "We try to be there for them for the most part. We have grief counselors. We go to the memorial services," she said.
Deputies arrested Christopher Koenig, 29, after he called 9-1-1 to explain what happened.
"I'm the person that hit the gentleman on the side of the road," Koenig told a dispatcher in a recording. The operator asked if Koenig had a few drinks, and he responded "Yes, sir, I did."
Koenig made his first appearance in court on charges of DUI with a death involved and leaving the scene of a deadly accident.
Dowdy wanted to be a Marine, and was known to participate in ROTC activities. Students at Kathleen High School got the news through a school wide announcement.
"I thought it was bad," said Nick Joyner, a senior at Kathleen High. "I thought it was kind of weird how the guy went home and didn't call authorities right away."
Investigators said Koenig waited 40 minutes after the collision before calling 9-1-1.
"I came home, and I just had to call," Koenig said in the recording.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd issued a statement denouncing drunk driving, and said Koenig made an irresponsible choice.
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