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6 teens injured when car hits pole

Troopers say the driver and two passengers were drinking alcohol before the accident occurred, and parents say at least two of the teenagers were ejected.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002

WESLEY CHAPEL -- Six teenagers were injured, some seriously, in a single-vehicle crash Sunday night that involved alcohol, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The teens, ages 14 to 18, were in a 1994 Nissan that was headed west on Lindenhurst Drive, not far off Old Pasco Road, when the crash happened about 10:40 p.m.

FHP troopers said the vehicle, driven by 16-year-old Erin Margaret Drinkwine, of 26343 Green Willow Run in Wesley Chapel, skidded off the road and hit a nearby pole. Parents said at least two of the teens in the car had been ejected.

Troopers indicated on accident reports that Drinkwine had been drinking alcohol prior to the accident.

The other teens in the car were: Jessie Baker, 14, of 9015 Hickory Circle in Tampa; Amanda Smith, 16, of 3718 Alice Drive in Zephyrhills; Nicole Ettinger, 17, of 26747 Green Willow Run in Wesley Chapel; William Chaff, 17, of 27540 Holiday Drive in Dade City; and Zenick Wilk, 18, of 25678 Inkwood Place in Wesley Chapel.

Baker, Chaff and Wilk were treated and released from area hospitals.

Family, friends and hospital officials declined to give information about the conditions of Drinkwine, Ettinger and Smith. One parent said two of the three remained in critical condition Monday.

"Obviously, it's a very touchy situation," said Michelle Chaff, William Chaff's mother.

Michelle Chaff said that the group of teenagers had been on the way to another friend's house when the vehicle crashed. She said that some of them went to school together, and others were introduced to one another through friends.

In a report, FHP troopers wrote that prior to the accident, three of the teens -- Drinkwine, Ettinger and Wilk -- had been drinking alcohol. Reports also stated that Drinkwine was the only one in the vehicle wearing a seat belt, though Chaff's mother said her son had his on as well.

Trooper Terry Simms, the accident investigator, could not be reached for further details on the crash.

Charges in the case are pending, according to the FHP report.

And anxious parents are hoping for the best.

"You just say, "It's going to be okay,' " Michelle Chaff said. "If you say anything else, you won't be able to make it."

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