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After man ejected, driverless SUV slams into another; 2 die

The accident began when a Wesley Chapel man lost control on State Road 52, officials say.

Published October 3, 2004

SAN ANTONIO - A tumbling, driverless SUV smashed into another SUV on State Road 52 Saturday in a wreck that killed two people and closed the highway for hours.

The crash happened after Donald J. McCracken, who was headed east at "a high rate of speed," drove off the road on a curve just east of Interstate 75, the Florida Highway Patrol said. As he tried to pull back onto the pavement, he overcorrected and his Ford Explorer overturned, the FHP said.

McCracken, 43, of Wesley Chapel, was thrown from the vehicle and killed as the Explorer started rolling, but the vehicle kept going.

His SUV hurtled into the opposite lane and hit a Toyota 4-Runner coming from the east. The 4-Runner's driver, William F. Streilen, 48, of Masaryktown, died on impact.

Both vehicles ended up on the north shoulder. Neither carried other passengers. It was more than two hours after the 11:41 a.m. crash before Streilen's body was freed from the wreckage.

The FHP closed State Road 52 in both directions while troopers interviewed a witness, made measurements along the road and waited for the bodies' removal.

Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies stationed themselves hundreds of yards to either side of the scene and turned motorists around by the hundreds. The road is one of the main routes connecting Dade City, St. Leo and San Antonio to the rest of Pasco County.

Investigators from the Pinellas-Pasco County Medical Examiner's Office arrived about 2 p.m. Afterward, firefighters used heavy equipment to cut the door from Streilen's vehicle and remove his body.

Wreckers began towing the SUVs from the side of the road about 2:45 p.m. The FHP reopened the highway about 3 p.m.

[Last modified October 3, 2004, 00:56:27]

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