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Three car accidents claim three lives

In two accidents, the drivers collided with trucks. In one, the driver was ejected. None wore seat belts.

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 8, 2002

TAMPA -- In the space of 16 hours Thursday and Friday, three people died in separate car accidents in southeastern Hillsborough County.

The first accident occurred on Big Bend Road just before noon Thursday. Cynthia Brown, 37, of 813 Golf Island Drive in Ruskin crashed into the back of an 18-wheeler that had stopped at a railroad crossing.

Brown died later at Tampa General Hospital. Her two daughters, Kaitlin, 9, and Kathy, 6, were injured. They were listed in good condition at Tampa General on Friday.

The second accident occurred later Thursday when Saulo Cortes was thrown from his 1985 Ford Mustang after he swerved off U.S. 301 north of Rhodine Road. Cortes, 20, of 1108 24th St. in Ruskin was pronounced dead at the scene.

U.S. 301 also was the scene of the third fatal accident. Early Friday, south of Big Bend Road, a southbound car driven by 18-year-old Ana Maria Villarreal crossed into the northbound lane and struck a Mack truck head-on. Villarreal survived, but her passenger, 19-year-old Ricardo Gonzalez of 12307 Big Bend Road in Riverview, was killed. Villarreal was listed in critical condition at Tampa General.

None of the people killed in the accidents was wearing a seat belt.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen it," Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Sterling King said, referring to the lack of seat belt use. "The belts do more good than bad."

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