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U.S. 98 crash leaves 1 driver dead

The collision closes the highway for hours and results in the 30th traffic fatality in Hernando County this year.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published December 3, 2005


BROOKSVILLE - Along a wooded stretch of two-lane highway, where Lake Lindsey Road crosses U.S. 98, two white trucks collided Friday, leaving one of the drivers dead.

Calvin L. Starks, 41, of 307 Cherry St., Brooksville, was driving a Chevy pickup with a trailer for Cliff's Septic Tank Service. Headed west, he stopped at the stop sign on Lake Lindsey Road, then pulled across the highway in front of a southbound Mack truck driven by Anthony J. Holley, 35, of Brooksville, according to Trooper Larry Coggins Jr., spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

The Mack truck hit the Chevy on its right side and knocked the pickup's cab off its body. Both vehicles came to rest on the southbound lane and shoulder of U.S. 98 - a twisted wreck. The Mack truck was leaking fuel.

Starks, a longtime employee of Cliff's, was taken to Brooksville Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The office manager at the Brooksville septic tank service, Chris Piermatteo, said the company had no comment on the accident. "We're busy dealing with the family now," she said, "and we're going to support them."

While victims of most serious trauma cases are flown to Tampa, Starks was not in good enough condition to make the flight, according to Jack Sanfilippo, Hernando County Fire Rescue's on-scene commander.

As Starks was taken to the hospital, Holley, the driver of the other truck, stood on the side of the road with worried co-workers. Holley delivers house trusses for CMF Trusses of Brooksville and was returning to the company's base to pick up another truss when the crash happened.

He suffered minor injuries and declined treatment.

"I'm shook up," he said. "I was in a bad accident - the worst I've ever been in."

Holley refused to talk about the details of the crash.

According to Holley's driving record, he has received a dozen citations since 1998, including three for speeding and one for failure to yield the right of way.

There was no indication, however, that anyone was speeding or that Holley had caused the accident, according to Coggins.

"The Chevy pickup pulled into the path of the Mack truck that had the right of way," Coggins said, but he added that the investigation had not concluded.

Bill Hartt, who works up the highway at Ringhaver Equipment Co., heard the accident from his office.

"I'm used to working with big machines, and I just heard a boom that sounded like someone had dropped something, like a crash boom," he said. "This intersection is dangerous, very dangerous."

In February, the intersection was the site of another fatal collision when a truck making a U-turn was struck by a northbound sand truck.

Friday's crash, which closed U.S. 98 for four hours, was the 30th traffic fatality in Hernando County this year, according to Coggins.

--Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 352 754-6114.

[Last modified December 3, 2005, 01:22:20]


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