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Man plows into gas pumps, then hides atop pole

Sheriff's deputies spend five hours trying to talk down the New Port Richey resident after the crash at a Hess in Spring Hill.

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published September 5, 2006


SPRING HILL - A New Port Richey man plowed his truck into a gas pump late Sunday night, escaped the fiery wreck and hid out atop a seven-story utility pole for five hours while threatening to jump to his death.

Craig Joseph Daniels, 39, drove his 1987 Ford truck into the gas pumps at Hess Express at Mariner Boulevard and County Line Road shortly before 11 p.m. Sunday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

"He came through here and hit pumps 3 and 4 and sent it into another one," said John Duncan, a Hess Express attendant. "He hit our diesel pump and sent it over into the middle of the parking lot there."

One of the pumps burst into flames. Duncan, who has worked at Hess Express for nearly six years, quickly shut off the gas.

Bobby Harvey and his fiancee, both of Brooksville, were driving by and saw Daniels fleeing the crash.

"We pulled over and kept an eye on him and called 911," Harvey said. "When they got there, they spotted him and shined the light up on him, and he went higher and higher and threatened to jump."

Harvey added, "Every time the cops started walking toward him, he went higher and higher. He started to walk out on the lines, yelling, 'Y'all know the story. Y'all know the story.' "

Authorities in Pasco County already wanted Daniels for violating his probation on charges of grand theft and possession of cocaine, said Donna Black, spokeswoman for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's Crisis Response Team spent the next five hours trying to talk him down.

Daniels climbed down about 4:30 a.m. Monday and was taken to a hospital and held under the provisions of Florida's Baker Act, Black said. The Baker Act allows involuntary psychiatric examinations if a person appears to present an immediate threat to himself or others.

Daniels was then taken to the Hernando County Jail, where he was being held Monday afternoon.

While Daniels remained perched seven stories up, Spring Hill Fire Rescue doused the fire at Hess Express.

No one was hurt. Duncan said traffic had slowed, with only one man filling up and a couple inside buying sodas.

"If it would have been a half-hour earlier, every one of those pumps would've been filled," Duncan said.

Several pumps remained out of commission Monday.

It was unclear what charges Daniels could face for the crash and the subsequent standoff. The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the crash but had no information on charges Monday afternoon, dispatcher Terry Wilcox said.

Black said the Sheriff's Office would not have information on charges until today.

The sheriff's deputy committing Daniels for psychiatric evaluation answered "Yes" to the question, "Does the person have a drug or alcohol involvement in addition to a mental illness?" But Black said she didn't know if alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash.

"If he was drunk, he sobered up pretty good because he moved pretty quick and got up that tower," Duncan said.

Times staff writer Camille Spencer contributed to this report. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352754-6127.

[Last modified September 4, 2006, 20:28:21]


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