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Pickup swerves into swamp, man drowns

Published May 27, 2003

LAND O'LAKES - A man drowned Monday night when a pickup truck carrying him and two other men veered off the road and plunged into a swamp.

The accident occurred about 7 p.m. on northbound Causeway Boulevard near the Cypress Bayou housing development in central Pasco County.

The Florida Highway Patrol had not released the drowned man's name late Monday. Witnesses said all three men were in their early 20s.

Ryan Burby, who managed to escape, said the man who died was seated on the far passenger's side of the truck.

Burby, 20, of 7401 St. Matthew's Road in Land O'Lakes, said he helped the driver escape by forcing open a door, but the two were unable to free the other man.

The driver, Jeff Schaer, 22, of Land O'Lakes, was taken to University Community Hospital in Tampa.

Burby said he and Schaer were friends and that Schaer and the other man, whom he had never met, had stopped at his house for about 10 minutes.

He said he was headed for Schaer's house.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the truck nearly collided head-on with a car before swerving to the right side of the road and into the water.

Witnesses said the truck was close to the center line.

"I saw the man who was going slow down the road and then went full speed, kind of trying to turn," said 13-year-old Brett Williamson.

He then heard tires squeal.

The teenager's mother, Jeannette Williamson, was in a gold Nissan Sable that was nearly hit. She swerved to the roadside and then rushed home for help.

Neighbors say the curvy road is a hazard.

"There have been 14 deaths on this road since 1971," said Brett's uncle, Steve Williamson, who lives nearby.

[Last modified May 27, 2003, 01:15:28]

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