Monday, February 14, 2005


Bicyclist dies in Osceola -- another hurt
The man who died was a volunteer coach for the Osceola High School baseball team.

A volunteer for Osceola High School's baseball team is dead and another man critically injured after they were hit by a car three miles south of St. Cloud on Tuesday evening.

Volunteer coach Jose Santiago, 43, and Gabriel Declet, 22, both of St. Cloud, were bicycling south on Canoe Creek Road near Old Canoe Creek Road when they were struck by a car, said Trooper Kim Miller of the Florida Highway Patrol.

A Chevrolet sedan that was driving in the same direction was found stopped on Santiago's bicycle, Miller said. Investigators are trying to determine if another car was involved in the accident.

The bicyclists did not know each other. Santiago was pronounced dead on the scene. Declet was transported by air to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Neither was wearing a helmet, Miller said.

The driver of the car, Adam Weaver, 18, of St. Cloud, was not injured.

Santiago was one of three volunteers for the Osceola team and spent every day working with team members, Osceola baseball coach Jim Murphy said. He rode his bicycle from his job as a caddy at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, to the high school.

"He was the kind of guy that when you met him, you liked him," Murphy said.

Both bicyclists had their driving privileges revoked because of their driving records, Miller said.


I got the call from my friend John Saturday. John was my best friend when I lived in Florida. Joey Santiago was his roommate when we all used to hang out together in the mid-1990s. Joey was everything that John wasn't. John is tall (6'3"), Joey was short (5'8"). John carried his 240 pounds great on his frame. Joey didn't carry his 180 pounds well at all. John was handsome. Joey was not. So on and so forth. Joey wanted what John ended up with - a beautiful wife and two gorgeous kids. Joey was a confirmed bachelor. Whenever I visited Florida, there were three "absolutes" - death, taxes and the fact that Joey was single.

However, one thing that Joey was - a great, great friend. He never got upset when we'd joke about his last sexual escapade being in the late 80s (self-gratification did NOT count). He'd always join right in when we were going somewhere like a baseball game, titty bar or out on the town, even though he didn't have as much money as the rest of us. He had a great sense of humor, almost Seinfeld-esque. He loved sports. Another thing you could count on was Joey ALWAYS having the sports section of the Orlando Sentinel tucked neatly underneath his left arm. He'd read box scores of every sport for hours. We used to talk to him about the most outlandish shit while he was reading and he'd give us the polite head nod or the occasional, "yeah, that's great," never knowing he just agreed that he should go out and blow an alien or some shit like that.

Joey fell on hard times recently. He had lost his long time job as a computer analyst and had no luck finding work in that field. He had to take a job as a caddy at a very reputable golf course. He also got pulled over for a DUI a year and a half ago - his second offense - and lost his license and had his car impounded. This is why he was riding his bicycle home from his job last Tuesday night. I honestly hope he didn't see it coming. I also hope he felt nothing as he left this world.

I'll never forget the last time I saw him last April - he was leaving John's house, headed for home on his bicycle (even though I offered to give him a ride). He said, "Thanks, JP, but no thanks. I fucked up and this is my penance. It'll be over soon." We then shook hands, did the manly hug thing and I said I'd see him next year when I came back. I guess I won't.

Joey - I love you like a brother. I'll miss you.

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