UNF student dies after a tragic auto accident

Spinnaker

By: Joseph Basco

Mark Alicea, a UNF chemistry junior, died Aug. 25 as the result of a series of unfortunate events.

He was born Dec. 6, 1990, and passed at just 20 years of age in what began as a minor automobile infraction on State Road 9A.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol crash report, at approximately 8:30 a.m. Alicea pulled over to the left-hand emergency lane to exchange insurance information with the other car involved in the accident.

While Alicea was in his car gathering his information, a pick-up truck neglected to slow down as it caught up to the congestion. It smashed into several cars, including Alicea’s, which then crashed into the car in front of him, leaving him trapped.

Emergency services arrived shortly thereafter and took Alicea to Shands Hospital. He died several hours later from injuries he sustained from the crash. Charges of careless driving are still pending against the pick-up truck driver.

Scott Geeser was Alicea’s friend and his manager at the Dairy Queen at 610 Kingsley Ave., where Alicea worked as a cook. Geeser said Alicea’s work ethic was phenomenal.

“He listened very well and never missed a day,” Geeser said. “He always cared about what he was doing.”

Alicea went to Orange Park High School, where he joined the poetry club and received an award from the school’s academic team. He graduated in 2009.

Alicea enrolled at UNF in fall 2009. He studied chemistry to pursue a career in cancer and asthma research. His goal was to find a cure for those diseases.

Dr. Robert Vergenz was Alicea’s General Chemistry I professor in the spring of 2011. Vergenz said he was a very good student and always visited during office hours.

“He was very gregarious with other students in the class,” Vergenz said.

Gabe Santiago and Ray Conrad were Alicea’s closest friends. The trio met in high school and remained friends. All three of them worked at Dairy

Queen and enrolled at UNF together.

“We had many intelligent conversations and discussions,” said Santiago, a UNF political science junior.

Conrad, a UNF accounting junior, shared the sentiment.

“He was the kind of person that guaranteed a job well done by the end of the night,” Conrad said.

Santiago and Conrad both remember Alicea’s fondness for video games.

Santiago said Alicea and others would come over to his house — they stocked up on junk food and played “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” until sunrise.

Alicea’s friends said they remember him as a competitive but friendly gamer. He also enjoyed practicing martial arts. Whatever Alicea was doing, his friends said he always strove for excellence. Geeser said Alicea was one of the most focused young men he had ever met, and his ambitions were cut short.

A fundraiser was held Sept. 3 at the Dairy Queen where he worked. Donations exceeded more than $1,000 on the first day alone.

Geeser said Alicea’s parents plan to donate the money to a children’s charity.

Alicea’s parents, Jorge and Antionette Carrion, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Alicea’s organs are in the process of being donated and will continue to help others after his death.

Alicea is survived by his sister, Tiffany; his parents; his uncles, Hector and Mauricio; and his cousins, Hector, Lorena and Andres.