Father remembers Plant High teen killed motorcycle crash, supports adding traffic signal to intersection

Hillsborough County

WFLA Photo

TAMPA (WFLA) – 17-year-old Benjamin Francis loved riding roller coasters and dirt bikes.

“Anything that moved and had an engine he loved it,” his father Gary Francis said.

Mr. Francis said his son grew up rebuilding engines in remote-controlled cars and boats.

“(Ben) put two-stroke engines on bicycles for his friends,” he said.

When Ben turned 16, he started working at Barney’s Motorcycle and Marine in St. Petersburg.

“He’s got my mechanical gene, I think,” his dad said.

Last Friday, the Plant High School junior died following a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Bay to Bay Blvd. and Lois Ave. in South Tampa.

“It’s just a very dangerous intersection,” said Mr. Francis, who lives nearby.

Ben’s girlfriend, 15-year-old Taylor Koulouris, was the passenger on the back of his motorcycle. She has also passed away.

Tampa police said the motorcycle was traveling east on Bay to Bay at a high rate of speed before a small SUV headed north on Lois pulled into the students’ path. The crash remains under investigation.

Mr. Francis said he has seen surveillance video from a dentist’s office showing the moments right before the collision.

“It really looks like the car at the last second went right in front of him,” he said.

8 On Your Side has learned the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County are trying to find the funding, an estimated $550,000, for a new traffic signal at the intersection. Bay to Bay is a county-owned and maintained roadway.

“Since funding has not been identified for this improvement, the City and County have been working towards implementing interim measures,” the city’s Mobility Director Vik Bhide said in a statement sent to 8 On Your Side. “These include the addition of pedestrian-activated enhanced cross, such as rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs).  RRFBs are a proven countermeasure to improve safety for people who walk and bike. Although this improvement wouldn’t have prevented this weekend’s deadly crash, RRFBs are a proven countermeasure to improve safety for people who walk and bike.”

Mr. Francis hopes changes can be made to the intersection that will save lives in the future.

“A traffic signal would be the best thing in this circumstance,” he said, but later added, “actually there’s a lot better things we can do that doesn’t exist yet. But maybe Benjamin would have invented it one day.”

Family and friends will remember Ben’s life at his funeral on Saturday.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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