Former FSU standout, current Creekside coach killed in head-on crash
Updated On: Apr 22 2013 04:48:51 PM EDT
Police have confirmed that former a Florida State University basketball standout and current assistant coach at Creekside High School was killed in car crash Friday night.
Alicia Gladden, 27, was driving south on Roosevelt Boulevard near McDuff Avenue in Avondale about 9:40 p.m. when a car police said was speeding north crossed over the grass median and struck Gladden's car head-on.
Gladden, who lived in Orange Park, and the driver of the second car, Sean Wieland (pictured, below), 25, of Jacksonville, were pronounced dead at the scene in the fiery crash, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
A passenger in Wieland's car, Nathan Ortiz, was taken to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
Investigators says there were indications that Wieland had been drinking and that he was going too fast to be able to negotiate a curve before his vehicle crossed the median into oncoming traffic.
Police said their investigation into the crash is active and ongoing.
Both Wieland and Ortiz were sailors stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
Gladden played at Orange Park High School, winning Most Valuable Player in her final three years there. She went to FSU, where she earned 1,403 career points -- seventh highest in Seminoles history.
After graduation, Gladden went pro, playing for several different countries in European basketball leagues. But it was when she moved back that she found her true love -- teaching and mentoring.
She became the assistant girls basketball coach at Creekside High School and also coached an Amateur Athletic Union girls basketball team.
Gladden's father, David Gladden, is still in shock, devastated by the loss of his daughter, a woman he said left a huge impact on the world.
"She was a team player, first of all, and she just loved people," David said. "She loved the girls, just to see them developing in their game and eager to learn."
Just a few months ago, Gladden helped lead the girl's basketball team at Creekside to its first ever district championship. It was a very proud moment for the school.
The St. Johns County School District assigned grief counselors at Creekside on Monday as faculty and students remembered the legacy Gladden left behind.
"Coach Gladden had a level of intensity and passion, but at the same time a calm demeanor that let all of our young ladies know that if they put their heart into it, they put their soul into it, anything is possible," Creekside Principal J. Randy Johnson said.
Gladden died Friday night coming back from coaching in a private league.
"I heard a loud explosion, and I came out the house. I look over here and there's a silver (Dodge) Charger that's on fire," said witness Ray Reberio, who pulled Ortiz from the car.
Riberio would later find out the woman killed in the crash was Gladden, a person he'd known from his experience as a high school referee.
"She gave back to the community. She's a local hero around here," he said. "I officiate games at her high school all the time, and I'm sure everyone at her high school and in this area will miss her tremendously."
Gladden's family is mourning her death, but they're taking comfort that she leaves quite the legacy, and they know she's in a better place now.
"She's OK. I believe she's in a brighter place," David Gladden said.
Gladden's family said they're holding a funeral for her at 11 a.m. Friday at Orange Park Christian Center in Clay County. They say all are welcome.
Wieland had been with a patrol squadron at NAS Jacksonville for about two and a half years. No one was available at his Westside home Monday.
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