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Residents say racing caused fatal crash

The driver of a white Mustang died after his car collided head-on with a pickup truck on Neff Lake Road, troopers say.

By DUANE BOURNE
Published September 19, 2003

SPRING LAKE - Sharon Wilson heard the squeal of car tires from her home of Neff Lake Road - a rural highway barely suited for two lanes of traffic.

"The cars were side by side," said Wilson, 45, a retired pest control manager. "I knew what was coming."

And it did.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper M. Donaldson said one man was killed about 4 p.m. Thursday after the white Mustang he was driving apparently struck a pickup truck head-on on Neff Lake Road.

Donaldson was unable to confirm how fast the car was traveling or the identities of the individuals involved pending an investigation and notification of next of kin.

However, residents along this road in the Spring Lake area said they know what happened.

"They were racing," said Richard Avirett, 30, a general contractor who was one of the first people on the scene. "They were going at least 90 mph."

Avirett said the Ford Mustang GT and a Ford Falcon were speeding south on Neff Lake Road when a truck, whose driver was not identified, turned north onto the road from Lanark Road into the car's path.

"The truck split them," said Fred Turner, 43, a resident of Neff Lake Road.

But the truck couldn't avoid the Mustang, witnesses said. The pickup truck collided head-on with the Mustang, causing it to flip over and split in half, Turner said.

When Turner and Avirett arrived at the scene, the driver of the truck was screaming. The driver of the Mustang was lying on the ground about 15 feet from the wreckage. The blue Falcon, which was occupied by two men, sped away.

"They just left their friend," said Turner, who is in the nursing profession. He tried to see if he could help the victim.

"I checked his pulse and he was already gone by then," said Turner. "I have never seen an accident like this. We told them not to pave the road and they did not listen."

The driver of the pickup was taken to Brooksville Regional Hospital, where his condition was not known Thursday night.

Donaldson would not disclose whether authorities are looking for the driver and passenger of the Ford Falcon.

"We don't know until we finish the investigation," he said.

An hour after the accident, Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Hernando sheriff's deputies had detoured traffic around Neff Lake Road as they conducted their investigation. Motorists stared at the Mustang as it lay in pieces along a fence. Mounds of earth were strewn across the roadway. A nearby sign read: speed limit 40 mph.

According to neighbors, motorists often speed along Neff Lake Road hoping to fly over a dip in the road, about a quarter-mile from the accident scene.

Still, Neff Lake Road resident Wilson considered the wreck a tragic, unnecessary loss.

"They passed right in front of my property," said Wilson. "It's such as shame. These kids were on the top of the world. Now they won't live to see tomorrow."

- Duane Bourne can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to dbourne@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 19, 2003, 01:48:06]


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