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Car strikes, kills man cycling across U.S. 19

Published February 27, 2004

CLEARWATER - A 19-year-old Clearwater man on a bicycle was hit by a car and killed Thursday as he tried to cross U.S. 19 in the early morning darkness.

Javier Ernesto Lechado, 19, of 1101 Beachwood Ave. was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 from east to west when he was struck by a 1989 Toyota Corolla about 6:40 a.m., police said.

Lechado was pronounced dead on the scene, which was about halfway between the State Road 590 and Sunset Point Road intersections.

Clearwater police closed the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 until almost 10 a.m. while they investigated the crash.

"This, of course, aggravated an already complicated drive-time situation," police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.

No charges had been filed Thursday against the driver of the Corolla, Clearwater resident Kenneth R. Klein, 43, though the investigation was continuing.

Records show Klein of 2625 State Road 590 has received four traffic tickets between 1996 and 2002 for varying offenses, including driving with an expired tag and driving with improper equipment.

Lechado has no driving history. Police said it appeared most of his family lived in Mexico.

The accident tangled morning traffic, which was diverted at State Road 590. Traffic was pushed east to McMullen-Booth Road and west to Old Coachman Road, Shelor said.

Shelor said Lechado was pedaling a mountain bike across the busy highway.

"He wasn't in an intersection, and he did ride into traffic," Shelor said. "It's dangerous to cross, particularly a traffic-congested, high-speed highway like (U.S.) 19, where there are no signals.

"That's an inherently dangerous move to make, particularly when it's dark."

- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

[Last modified February 27, 2004, 01:31:31]

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