For victims of fatal crash
When Dane Custer was small, maybe 8 years old, his father gave him a $5 guitar he bought at a garage sale.
The family lived in Hamilton, Illinois, then, a town of less than 3,000 people on the banks of the Mississippi River. The guitar was beat up, so they brought it over to Meister’s Music Store, where Jack Meister, the owner, had a look at it.
Dane Custer didn’t care what it looked like, or even how it sounded. All he cared about was learning to play it. So Meister restrung the guitar, Custer took a lesson about five minutes,” his mother said and then taught himself the chords, well enough that eventually he earned a music scholarship to college.
had a beautiful gift,” his mother said.
Custer, who moved to Manatee County about 18 months ago, carried that gift with him until early Monday morning when he was killed in a single vehicle, high speed crash on University Parkway near Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
Also killed were Wesley C. McCurley and Michael P. Duffy, both of Sarasota. Thomas Bentley of Sarasota, who was ejected from the 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis, suffered some broken ribs and a possible concussion and was released from Sarasota Memorial Hospital Tuesday afternoon, according to his Facebook page.
The four friends involved in the crash all were 21 years old. Bentley turned 21 Monday, and they were out celebrating his birthday, Kristi Custer said.
McCurley had just turned 21 last Thursday, and to celebrate his birthday the four took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, said Troy Nicholas, a friend of the theirs.
can’t believe it was 21 years ago tonight that my lil dude, Wesley McCurley, came into my world,” McCurley’s father, Rick, posted on Facebook on his birthday. will always be my 1 man.”
Investigators say they may never know how fast the car was traveling when McCurley, the driver, lost control, due to the fact that the vehicle was split in half. Sarasota Police Department spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said toxicology reports from the medical examiner’s office aren’t expected to be complete for several days.
Rhiannon Johnson, who had known Duffy since middle school and graduated with him at Lakewood Ranch High, had trouble processing the enormity of the tragedy. Tuesday afternoon found her visiting the unmarked crash site.
need to get closure. I have to see it for myself,
Johnson, 21, said. still don’t believe it. small gesture
This marked the second time Johnson grieved the loss of a former Lakewood Ranch classmate. She knew Brett Wagner and Josh Rogers, both 18, who were killed when their truck collided with a car on State Road 64 on Christmas Night in 2011.
On Tuesday Johnson followed the tire tracks that covered the length of a football field through the University Parkway median, where the car hit three trees before coming to a halt. She was silent as she inspected the glass still embedded in the bark of the three scarred oaks.
used to give (Duffy) a ride to school and he used to make fun of my Toyota Corolla,” Johnson said. he was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. He was really, really popular and everybody loved him. year old Ben Hyde used virtually identical quotes to describe McCurley. was a kind, talented and respectful musician. And all he talked about was his music, said Hyde, a Sarasota High student. looked up to him as a person. I’m still in shock I still can’t believe it. 20 year old Chase Vickers of Bradenton, McCurley’s enduring legacy will be the impact of a small gesture.
Vickers didn’t know McCurley well. They met in August 2014, at McCurley’s garage, which the metal music drummer called the Jam Clinic. The last time Vickers saw him was at a concert at The Orpheum in Tampa.
Born blind, Vickers said he bonded during their first conversation. told me he looked up to me as a drummer after hearing me play on his kit for about a minute, Vickers said via email. like Wes inspire me to live every day like it’s our last, surround yourself with people who you love and who love you, and never take anything for granted.
from now on, every time I go to practice, play a show, or even just listen to metal, Wes will always be right there jamming out with me in spirit, as he is every day. about music’
Custer grew up in Illinois and moved in with his parents, Dan and Kristi, about 18 months ago in Manatee County. Dane had a brother, Drake, who is 10 years older and Kristi Custer remembers being told she and her husband could not have another child after Drake.
Then along came Dane.
was my little giggle from God,” she said.
He grew up playing guitar, keyboards and the tuba. He sang as well, and earned a scholarship to study music production and communications at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. After he moved to Manatee County he began taking classes at State College of Florida.
Inside Custer’s spotless bedroom on Tuesday were the reminders of how much he loved music and how diversified his tastes were. A replica of a 1976 tour poster for the rock band The Who was on his wall, Hall and Oates was on his stereo, and a box of vinyl records was on the floor. He loved classic rock, his mother said, but also had a fondness for jazz.
Kristi Custer said. was always about music.”
He worked at Guitar Center Sarasota, which is where he met Bentley, one of his many friends.
wanted the world to be filled with love,” his mother said. goal for everyone was to find their definition of happiness.”
Kristi Custer is still coming to grips with the loss of her son and says it is too early to think about a memorial service.
On Tuesday she stood in the middle of her living room and silently watched a video on her cell phone. It was of her son when he was a senior in high school in 2012. He was sitting in a chair on a stage in the school auditorium, playing an acoustic guitar in front of his classmates without a tinge of nervousness.