Careening car causes accidents, injuries

Published March 21, 2007

SPRING HILL - The collision was impossible for Jerry Linder to avoid. In fact, by the time his wife, Emma, saw the green car hurtling toward them, it was already airborne.

They were right in the way.

"The next thing I knew the air bag went off," said Emma Linder, shaking her head that the couple escaped injury. "We were extremely lucky."

The bizarre accident involving four vehicles on U.S. 19 Monday morning began when Jeremy Ratcliff, 29, of Hudson, suddenly blacked out at the wheel of his 1997 Mustang convertible near Forest Oaks Boulevard, causing him to ram into the back of two vehicles. Ratcliff's car then traveled several hundred feet more before jumping the median and ending up in the northbound lane, where it struck the Linders' 2000 Buick LeSabre.

The Mustang then flipped into a ditch, ejecting its driver.

"It was a strange sequence of events," said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Larry Coggins. "The good thing is that everybody came out in pretty good shape."

According to Coggins, investigators believe Ratcliff had a medical condition that caused him to lose consciousness. Blood tests for alcohol and drugs were negative, Coggins said.

Ratcliff was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he was being kept overnight for observation.

James Satiroff, 78, whose 1998 Ford was struck by Ratcliff's vehicle, was taken to Oak Hill Hospital and released. There were no other injuries in the crash.

FHP said that no charges have been filed.

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.