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    Motorcycle rider flown to hospital after crash

    The driver who hit the motorcyclist, who is in critical condition, said he didn't see the bike coming.

    By MEGAN SCOTT
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 18, 2003


    PALM HARBOR -- Peter Ioannou said he didn't see the motorcyclist approaching the intersection Thursday morning.

    He said he stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways and then proceeded to turn left onto Belcher Road. He collided with 42-year-old Michael Lachner, who was riding a black Harley-Davidson.

    Lachner, of St. Petersburg, was not wearing a helmet. He was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center with life-threatening injuries and was listed in critical condition Thursday evening.

    "He was unconscious with a massive head injury," said firefighter paramedic Kevin Mulligan, who examined Lachner on the scene. "He was bleeding from the nose and head."

    Ioannou, 73, of Dunedin, was wearing his seat belt. He was not injured. He was charged with violation of right of way.

    The crash occurred about 9:50 a.m. at the intersection of Belcher Road and County Road 39. Ioannou was traveling west on CR 39 in a 1992 Buick Century. He was making a left turn onto southbound Belcher.

    Lachner was traveling northbound in the left lane on Belcher when the two vehicles collided. His bike struck the left side of Ioannou's car.

    "I didn't see him," Ioannou said shortly after the accident. "I looked left and right for traffic to clear."

    Witnesses said the motorcycle was traveling within the speed limit, said Trooper James Bregon of the Florida Highway Patrol.

    The northbound and southbound lanes of Belcher Road were shut down for more than two hours so the helicopter could land, load the patient and take off, said Kristy Patterson, the public information officer for Palm Harbor Fire Rescue. The intersection was closed for several hours while a team investigated the accident.

    Lachner's baseball cap, T-shirt and a white sneaker were a few yards away from his overturned motorcycle. There were skid marks on Belcher Road where he apparently tried to brake.

    Bregon said Lachner would be charged with not having a motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license, a misdemeanor.

    Ioannou voluntarily gave blood for a blood-alcohol test. He said he had not been drinking. Bregon said he had no probable cause to believe Ioannou was driving under the influence.

    Ioannou, a winter resident, was scheduled to leave on a 2 p.m. flight to his home in Toronto. He was on his way back to Dunedin from visiting friends when the accident occurred.

    "I left home to say goodbye to a friend of mine," Ioannou said. "I feel sad. I didn't expect this thing to be. Last couple of hours before you go home . . . you have this."

    -- Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or mscott@sptimes.co .

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