TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Investigators suspect a motorist was impaired when he drove his van onto a sidewalk and struck and killed a 7-year-old boy in Palmetto.
The incident occurred at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday evening in the area of 4th Street West and 8th Avenue West.
Police said the driver, 35-year-old Aaron Naylor of Parrish, was heading south on 8th Avenue when he left the road and drove his Ford van onto the sidewalk, where he hit a child who was walking with his father.
Witnesses told police the child’s father had tried to push him out of harm’s way but was unsuccessful.
The boy later identified as James Linzi was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, where he later died.
Linzi’s godparents, Aaron and Monique Cichon said his smile and laugh were contagious and he always lit up the room.
“We’re left with such a hole,” Cichon said. “He loved every minute of the seven years of his life.”
Linzi just turned 7 on Tuesday, one day before he was killed. His godfather talked with him the day of his birthday.
“The last thing he said to me was that he can’t wait to come see us and he loves us, he was such a precious boy,” Cichon said.
Linzi and his dad Alex just left their Jiu-Jitsu class, which is about a 3-minute walk from where Linzi was struck.
Cichon said Linzi loved Jiu-Jitsu. He talked about it all the time, and always wanted to get better.
“He loved it, looked forward to it, he talked about it, send us videos, it’s so selfish he was stolen from the world,” Cichon said.
He also loved his parents and his two siblings, who are left with only memories.
“He was a precious gift from God who was stolen from the entire world by the selfless act of an individual,” Cichon.
Linzi’s godmother started a GoFundMe for the family, which you can donate to here.
Police suspect Naylor was impaired during the crash. They said he was hospitalized with minor injuries, then arrested for DWI manslaughter and several drug offenses.
Naylor was booked into the Manatee County Jail, where he is being held on a $500,000 bond.
The crash remains under investigation.