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Driver critically injured in SR 54 crash

Two other drivers receive minor injuries as the four-vehicle accident snarls traffic for a couple of hours.

Published August 25, 2004

LAND O'LAKES - A Land O'Lakes man who tried to squeeze a left turn through two lanes of busy traffic along State Road 54 was in critical condition Tuesday after his car was smashed on the side by a van.

John Brandon Delong, 23, was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa after the collision at SR 54 and Carpenter's Run. The accident about 6:48 a.m. involved four vehicles as the car Delong was driving and the van spun around and hit other vehicles.

Delong was so close to home when the accident occurred that his sister and mother heard the crash.

"I knew there was a crash. We could hear it. I just didn't know it was my brother," said Delong's sister, Amber. "We were out back having coffee when we heard the crash. Then there was a helicopter that went over the house."

The collision tied up eastbound traffic on SR 54 for a couple of hours.

Samita Mezger of Land O'Lakes watched in disbelief as Delong tried to cut through the busy traffic. She had just dropped off her son at day care and was headed to work. Because of the traffic, she had to wait at the stop sign on Carpenter's Run Drive before making a right to head east on SR 54.

"I just sat there, thinking, "It's not going to hit me,' " Mezger said. "A second after I thought that, they hit me."

Delong was driving west on SR 54 in a Toyota Celica owned by a friend visiting from Alabama. He cut across the eastbound lanes aiming to go south on Carpenter's Run where he lives. The car was struck on the front passenger side by an eastbound van driven by Kevin Ford of New Port Richey. An eastbound car driven by Juan Martinez of Land O'Lakes tried to avoid the collision but struck the van as it spun around.

The Toyota and the van spun around and struck Mezger's SUV as she waited at the stop sign.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper John F. Sessa said Delong was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

Ford, the driver of the van, and Martinez, the driver of one of the cars, both sustained minor injuries in the collision.

[Last modified August 25, 2004, 01:34:24]

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