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2 die in 3-vehicle crash on U.S. 19

Investigators say racing appears to be the cause. A New Port Richey man and a Tampa man were killed.

Published August 2, 2006

[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Florida Highway Patrol investigators discuss what happened after a three-vehicle crash at about 10 a.m. Tuesday on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor. A piece of the Honda that tore off after impact is wedged under the back of a pickup truck as a third vehicle, an Izuzu Rodeo, sits in the middle of the street. Two men died in the crash.

PALM HARBOR - The evidence all points to a deadly race:

Two cars speeding side-by-side down U.S. 19.

Debris - car parts, books, a child's sneaker, a baby bottle - that stretched for more than a hundred yards.

And the two dead men - David R. Smithers, 33, of New Port Richey and Maynard Bindscheattel III, 18, of Tampa.

Until the investigation is complete, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Larry Coggins isn't officially calling Tuesday's fatal accident the result of a race. But he said that's what investigators suspect.

Smithers was driving an Isuzu Rodeo and Bindscheattel was a passenger in a Honda CRX that both roared north on U.S. 19 about 10 a.m. Tuesday, troopers said.

The two vehicles had sped away - Coggins declined to say how fast - from a traffic signal at U.S. 19 and Nebraska Avenue.

There is no indication the men in the two cars knew each other, he said. Many races simply start with a glance and a nod at a red light, he said.

"These are all very spontaneous events," Coggins said. "Not like American Graffiti back in the '50s where things are planned out."

As the Honda and the Isuzu approached Alderman Road, a southbound Ford pickup truck made a U-turn to go north, Coggins said.

After the pickup made the turn, the Honda's driver, Dalton A. Stoltz, 18, of Tampa, swerved to avoid it, Coggins said. His Honda hit the back of the pickup truck, causing the truck to rotate clockwise.

The Honda then hit the back of the Isuzu, causing the Isuzu to tumble along U.S. 19, ejecting Smithers.

Smithers was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he died, authorities said.

Bindscheattel, a passenger in the Honda, died at the scene. Stoltz was flown to Bayfront Medical Center where he was in good condition Tuesday evening.

The passenger of the Isuzu, 27-year-old Candie Means of New Port Richey, was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where she was released Tuesday evening. Among those in the Honda and the Isuzu, she was the only one wearing a seat belt.

The driver of the Ford pickup, 24-year-old Dominic Motta of Weeki Wachee, was uninjured.

The crash forced troopers to close all northbound and some southbound lanes of U.S. 19 for several hours.

No charges were filed, but an investigation was continuing. Smithers' Florida driving record includes two citations for speeding, a seat belt violation and several citations for operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe condition. Stoltz had no infractions on his record.

Troopers said witnesses reported that the cars appeared to be racing.

Debris from the violent impact still was airborne when Michael Giguere and Jim Frink, employees at Just Brakes, ran out of their shop toward the wreck. They had heard the impact over the noise they were making in the garage, Giguere said. Frink said Smithers, the ejected driver of the Isuzu, was lying in a puddle of blood. Means, the female passenger of the Isuzu, stumbled out of the car on her own, Frink said, and sat on a curb by a pole. Someone yelled out that there was a child seat in the car.

Frink said he went over to Means and asked if kids were in the car. She said no.

Smithers' father, David E. Smithers, said his son had been dating Means for two months.

He said his son grew up in the area and worked for an air-conditioning company in Clearwater.

Maynard Bindscheattel Sr., 59, said his grandson was "a good kid." Known to his family as "Joe," the younger Bindscheattel was planning to visit his grandfather in Lutz this weekend.

Times staff writer Rebecca Catalanello and researchers Cathy Wos and Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report.

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 01:48:47]

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