Wife dies in high-speed crash

Police don't know why the driver, just released from jail, was going so fast.

By JACOB H. FRIES, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - A half hour after walking out of jail, Joseph Schofield raced down 49th Street in a Honda, smashed into a Dodge pickup and went airborne.

"It flew!" said Rafiq Noorani, who watched the Saturday morning crash unfold. "I saw the car fly from the red light to that building, flying, like a football," for the better part of a city block.

The mangled Honda bounced a few times before slamming into a tanning salon and catching fire. Schofield's 24-year-old wife, Angela, died at the scene. Schofield, 27, was pulled from the wreckage and taken to Bayfront Medical Center in critical condition.

The driver of the pickup, Gene Daniel Hink, 45, of St. Petersburg, was treated at the hospital and released.

The crash occurred shortly after 8 a.m., about 30 minutes after Schofield left the Pinellas County Jail. He had been booked Saturday on cocaine possession at 12:29 a.m. and released at 7:31 a.m.

The jail is located about 7 miles north of the crash scene, on the same road. It was unknown Saturday where the couple had been going or why they were traveling so fast on 49th Street.

The Schofields, who married in 2002, have two girls, ages 4 years and 8 months, said Angela's mother, Julie James, who lives in Kansas.

"She loved spending time with her kids, and giving them a happy home was everything to her," James said through tears. "We love her very much and we'll miss her."

Asked if she had anything to say about Joseph, James said: "Not particularly."

In addition to the cocaine charge, Joseph Schofield was arrested in July on allegations of domestic battery. A request not to prosecute was later made and the case was dropped, records show.

No charges have been filed in Saturday's crash.

Police say Hink had been traveling north on 49th Street N when he tried to make a left turn onto 38th Avenue. That's when the Honda, traveling at a "very high rate of speed," smashed into the truck, slid across the roadway and slammed into Browntown Tanning, 3616 49th Street N, police said.

The collision scattered metal, glass and plastic for blocks, and police had the southbound lanes of 49th Street closed for hours as they combed through evidence.

The impact ripped off most of the truck's front end, including a wheel. The cab and truck bed were stranded in the intersection pointed to the southwest.

The car, meanwhile, was barely recognizable as a car. It was just twisted metal and broken glass.

The sight of it drew dozens of onlookers, who snapped photos with their phones and marveled that someone came out alive. Children, visibly shaken, asked their parents to leave the grisly scene.

Jim VanKoevering, 71, stood among them. Moments before the crash, he said, he was leaving McDonald's two blocks to the north. He saw the car zipping south on 49th Street.

"It was really moving. I'd say 95, 100 miles per hour. That car was flying," he recalled.

Then: "It sounded like an explosion, like an airplane crash, like a bomb."

Afterward, VanKoevering parked and came to the site. He watched police officers take photos, write in notebooks and examine the rubble, hundreds of car and trucks pieces scattered in ways that seemed to defy reason.

"I could have got it, too, if I had pulled in front of that car," he said.

On the edge of the intersection stood another reminder of how dangerous the roads can be. There, in a patch of grass, was a small memorial, flowers and a sign that read, "In memory of Luis and Julia Martin. Feb. 11, 2005."

That morning, the elderly couple had been headed to a friend's funeral when their car collided with a bus in the intersection. They died instantly, police said.

Jacob H. Fries can be reached at jfries@sptimes.com or 727 893-8872.