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Miss Florida injured in accident

Shauna Pender of St. Petersburg is listed in critical condition after the crash in suburban Miami.

By Wire services
Published November 8, 2003

MIAMI - Miss Florida, Shauna Pender of St. Petersburg, was critically injured Friday in a traffic accident in suburban Miami, state troopers said.

The accident occurred hours before Pender was scheduled to appear at a charity event in Kendall.

Pender, 24, competing as Miss St. Petersburg, was first runnerup in the Miss Florida pageant held in St. Petersburg in June.

The Florida State University theater graduate assumed the crown last last month after the pageant winner, Ericka Dunlap of Orlando, was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City on Sept. 20.

Pender, two other women and a 5-year-old girl were in a Lincoln Town Car when a Ford F-150 pickup changed lanes and caused the Lincoln to veer out of control about 4 p.m., said Lt. Julio Pajon of the Florida Highway Patrol.

An 18-wheel semitrailer truck also swerved and tipped over onto the car. The pickup truck did not collide with either vehicle and left the scene, Pajon said.

"We had to utilize the Jaws of Life to get (Pender) out of the car," Pajon said. "She was the worst injured." He said Pender was able to talk to her rescuers.

Pender was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center and underwent surgery.

At 10:30 p.m., Pajon told the Associated Press, "It's my understanding that she's conscious and talking to the doctors."

The Town Car belongs to the Miss Florida Pageant. Pageant officials were gathered at the hospital, but declined requests for comment.

The other women and the child were also injured, as was the driver of the semitrailer truck, Pajon said. They were taken to other hospitals, none with life-threatening injuries.

The accident, at the intersection of the Dolphin and Palmetto expressways west of Miami International Airport, backed up traffic for hours.

On Friday night, Pender had been expected to be guest at a fundraiser for Operation Smile, a charity that provides reconstructive surgery for poor children with facial deformities, at a farmers' market in Kendall.

- The Miami Herald contributed to this report.

[Last modified November 8, 2003, 01:47:02]

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