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2 dead, 3 hurt in crash on SR 44

A van crosses the center line near Gospel Island Road and hits two vehicles, including a small car carrying two men who die instantly.

By SUZANNAH GONZALES
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2002


GOSPEL ISLAND -- Two men were killed early Saturday when the small two-door car in which they were riding caught fire after it was hit head-on by a red van on State Road 44 E near Gospel Island Road.

The identities of the men and the others involved in the accident were not released by authorities Saturday morning.

Next of kin still needed to be notified, said officials with the Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the accident.

About 3 a.m. Saturday, a red Ford van traveling west on SR 44 E crossed the center line, sideswiped a white van that was traveling east and then struck the small car head-on, according to Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Frye.

The two men riding in the small car were killed instantly, Frye said.

The crash happened just west of Gospel Island Road.

When volunteer firefighters from the Inverness Fire Department arrived at 3:22 a.m., six minutes after they were called, the car was engulfed in flames, department Lt. Eddie Simon said.

"As soon as we pulled up, the whole thing -- the whole car -- was fully involved," he said.

The doors of the car had to be cut off to remove the burned bodies from the wreckage, Simon said.

Investigators were unable to identify the victims immediately, Frye said.

The person driving the red van was taken to Citrus Memorial Hospital, Simon said.

The two people riding in the white van also were injured; they were treated and released at the crash scene, Frye said.

Asked whether alcohol played a part in the accident, Frye said only that the crash was "still under investigation."

That portion of SR 44 E was blocked off for several hours Saturday after the crash. The roadblocks were still up at 9:30 a.m.

The accident was the latest in a string of fatal car wrecks in Citrus County.

Last weekend, three Citrus County residents were killed -- two on County Road 491 just south of the Citrus line in Hernando County and one on County Road 486 near Beverly Hills.

Two other county residents died after accidents last month.

-- Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at sgonzales@sptimes.com or 860-7300.

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