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Tanker crash inquiry may take 6 weeks

By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 2, 2002

TAMPA -- It could take as long as six weeks before medical examiners know what happened to the driver of a propane tanker that crashed on the Veterans Expressway on Thursday, tying up traffic for hours.

Hillsborough County medical examiners performed an autopsy on the body of Ronald C. Pugh on Friday, said Becky Bryant, a forensic investigator. They will need to do further studies before reaching a conclusion on the factors that led to his death.

Pugh, 63, was driving a truck hauling 2,600 pounds of liquefied petroleum gas for Bay Cities Gas when his truck veered out of the northbound lanes of the Veterans Expressway, crossed the median and crashed into a southbound pickup driven by Nancy J. Smolsky of New Port Richey.

Pugh and Smolsky, 44, died at the scene.

Pugh's co-workers at Bay Cities Gas said he had worked there for 19 years. Pugh's wife, Deloris, is the company's office manager and her daughter, Sally, is the company's secretary, said Patty Copeland, vice president. "They are family to us so we are terribly shook up about it," Copeland said.

Pugh will be eulogized Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Incarnation Catholic Church at Hillsborough Avenue and Webb Road.

Smolsky's funeral will be held Monday at Seven Springs Presbyterian Church off Little Road. A time has not been set. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Faupel Funeral Home in Port Richey.

-- Tim Grant can be reached at 269-5311 or at rant@sptimes.com .

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