Florida teenager, only girl on her high school football team, killed in drunk driving incident: 'She meant so much to us'
A promising life was tragically cut short when Sophia Delott of Indian Rocks Beach, an aspiring Marine, was killed in a suspected drunk driving incident at around 10.30 pm on June 28. The 17-year-old was popular at Seminole High School for being the sole female player on the football team.
Seminole High School Warhawks Football Coach Chris Miller told Fox13 that Delott, who played safety, was a “humble” teenager who did not want any special treatment.
“She didn't (join the team) to gain any recognition or anything, she just wanted to play football,” the coach said. “She didn't want to be treated any different — so we didn't. She was treated like anybody else in spring football.”
Miller added that he found out she was joining the Marines when she had to miss football practice, for the very first time, for her swearing-in ceremony.
“Here's this little girl,” he said. “I mean, she's five-foot-six and weighs about 100 pounds, she's out here playing football with 16, 17, 18 year old young men, and not only has she joined the Marines, but she's already gone through all the physical litmus tests, and she's got her actual swearing-in ceremony, and that's why she's going to miss practice.”
According to the Daily Mail, her recruiter, Sgt. Paul Digness, said: “I wanted her to do well, and I knew she was going to - we all saw that. And it's a big loss because I know the potential she had just in my short time I had with her.”
The girl's locker has been turned into a memorial by her grieving teammates, with flowers, football cleats and her No. 22 jersey.
Delott’s fellow Warhawks player Cayden Edds told the Tampa Bay Times, "She was a super strong person.”
“She just meant so much to us and this whole football program,” teammate Bruno Boyens told Fox13.
Coach Miller last saw Delott after morning football practice on June 27.
“Sophie was the last one to leave. I told her I'd see her next week,” he said. “And then I got a phone call Saturday morning, about 6:00 in the morning, from our head basketball coach, who told me Sophie had been killed by a drunk driver.”
Police said that the alleged drunk driver who killed Delott, Neil Singhal, is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on a $200,000 bond. The 69-year-old has been charged with DUI manslaughter.
Delott was riding her bike home on Indian Rocks Causeway Bridge when Singhal swerved into the lane and crashed into her. The crash threw the teenager off her bike and she died in the hospital.
According to the arrest report, Singhal was uninjured, but “showed numerous indicators of impairment during field sobriety tests.”
Singhal reportedly had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and reeked of booze at the time of his arrest, according to a deputy. A bottle of vodka was also allegedly discovered in his car at the time of the crash.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by the football team to raise money for Delott’s family.
The team posted the news of her death on Facebook, writing: “Last night, one of our own was taken from us by a drunk driver. Sophie was a Warhawk through and through. She was a Marine. Most of all, she was our family.”
A funeral for Delott was held in Illinois on Friday, July 5.