tampabay.com

Driver plows into three troopers at cycle fatality

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published May 21, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - As they shifted through the carnage of a fatal motorcycle accident on I-275 near 38th Avenue N Saturday night, three Florida Highway Patrol officers became victims themselves.

The Highway Patrol says a drunken driver - despite flashing emergency lights, road flares and traffic cones - plowed into them, sending them to Bayfront Medical Center where they remained Sunday night in stable condition.

Lt. Bruce Doras, of the Florida Highway Patrol said four patrolmen were injured, but a patrol report said three - Gregory S. Taylor, Rhonda S. Hendee and auxiliary trooper Eugene R. Lebrenz - were hospitalized. Two received broken bones, one a back injury and one muscle strains.

The injuries were not considered life threatening, Doras said.

According to the Highway Patrol, the trouble began when Ryan J. Sneddon, 24, of 8648-91st Terrace N in Seminole, was killed about 8 p.m. Saturday when he lost control of his 2006 Honda motorcycle as he tried to gain access to southbound I-275 from 54th Avenue N.

Trying to change lanes at a high rate of speed, Sneddon hit a guardrail and was thrown into the interstate's inside lane. He was pronounced dead at the scene, the FHP report said.

Three hours later, Taylor, Hendee, Lebrenz and other law enforcement still were investigating at the scene of the accident when Robert Michael Taylor, 19, approached in a Honda Civic, heading south on I-275.

The scene was marked with flares, traffic cones, a lighted arrow board and police patrol vehicles with emergency lights, closing the inside and inside center lanes of southbound I-275.

As Taylor neared the area, he tried to avoid slower traffic in the outside center lane by swerving left. He lost control and hit the rear right corner of the one of the police vehicles. The impact pushed the police vehicle into a second police car.

Still out of control, Taylor, of 2295 43rd St. N, St. Petersburg, kept spinning counterclockwise, slamming into Taylor, Hendee, and Lebrenz. All three, along with a driver of one of the patrol vehicles, were taken to Bayfront Medical Center.

Taylor, not seriously hurt, was taken to Bayfront, where his blood alcohol level was recorded at 0.176. The legal level is 0.08.

Taylor is charged with three counts of driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury, and two counts of driving under the influence with property damage. He was released on a $31,000 bond from the Pinellas County Jail early Sunday. He did not return phone calls to his home.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com