Cypress Lake High remembers alum killed in weekend crash

CREATED Feb. 10, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Students and staff members at Cypress Lake High School returned to school, just a day after 2012 graduate Imtiyaz Ilias died in a fiery crash near Tampa.

“We miss him. Cypress Lake High School misses him. His family misses him,” said a solemn Angelo Vaughn, Assistant Wrestling Coach at Cypress Lake.

Student, faculty, and staff returned to school today after learning of the death of one of their own, 20-year-old Imtiyaz “Jim” Ilias.

Police say Ilias and three others were killed early Sunday morning when an SUV headed the wrong way on the I-275 in Tampa crashed into their car head-on.

The SUV burst into flames, also killing the driver inside.

Ilias graduated from Cypress Lake in 2012 and was currently a student at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He was with his fraternity brothers at the time of the crash.

Jim’s wrestling coach remembers the young man as “very special.”

During his time at Cypress Lake he went on to win two state wrestling titles.

He was a “very good student, a tenacious wrestler,” said Vaughn, “a state champion, a funny guy!"

While Jim is remembered as a fierce competitor on the mat, young students also knew him as mentor.

“He would come in and coach the young kids - he up and coming kids - the grade school kids,” said Vaughn, “He was very patient."

Jim understood the meaning of community, as did his family; they owned a well-known local convenience store a block away from the school.

That store, ‘Grab ‘n Go’ was closed today as the family begins to mourn the loss.

This morning, a makeshift memorial also began to grow outside of the convenience store.

Members of the community dropped off flowers and cards expressing their condolences.

Regulars at the ‘Grab ‘n Go’ were stunned when they heard the news.

“Shock, just shock,” said Katie Petterson, “our whole area will be in prayer for them today.”

Those close to the family, like Vaughn, now left with memories of better days to get them through the pain.

“He would get out there and roll with me sometime and it's like, Jim, do you want to do this,” said Vaughn.