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Christmas Day crash claims second victim
By MOLLY MOORHEAD, Times Staff Writer
Published December 27, 2007
Two more people in the accident at Little Road and U.S. 19 Tuesday remained hospitalized Wednesday. The driver thought to be at fault once hit and killed a pedestrian but was not charged.
[David Degner | Times]
David A. Belniak drove the vehicle that struck a stopped SUV.
HUDSON - A second person has died after a Christmas Day crash on U.S. 19, and the driver of the other vehicle involved has numerous violations behind the wheel, records show.
David A. Belniak of Spring Hill was heading north in a Nissan pickup about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday when he failed to stop at a red light at Little Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
He struck the back of a stopped Chevrolet Tahoe carrying four people. One man died at the scene, and his wife has since died at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
A month ago, Belniak, 34, completed probation following a 17-month prison stint for a drug conviction. In 2003, he was pulled over in New Port Richey on suspicion of drunken driving, and authorities found a gallon of GHB, known as a "date rape" drug, in his Mustang. He pleaded no contest to trafficking the drug and was sentenced to two years in prison and a two-year suspension of his driver's license.
In 2002, he was arrested in Hernando County on a charge of DUI. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a misdemeanor, and paid a fine.
In addition, he has numerous speeding tickets on his record: 75 mph in a 45 mph zone in 1990; 56 mph in a 30 mph zone in 1994; 91 mph in a 45 mph zone in 1995. His most recent ticket was in September.
In 1994, he struck a pedestrian on U.S. 19 near Fivay Road. The woman died, but Belniak was not charged.
Highway Patrol spokesman Larry Coggins said he was not aware of Belniak's history. He said it would not have any bearing on the investigation, unless the case winds up in front of a judge.
"That could be used against him in court, especially in a sentencing phase," Coggins said.
Belniak, who was treated at Bayfront and released, could not be reached Wednesday.
Charges in the crash are pending. Coggins said he didn't know if alcohol was involved. Investigators drew blood from both drivers, which is standard procedure.
The Tahoe's driver, Raymond McWilliams, 64, of Hudson, was listed in fair condition at Bayfront Wednesday. His wife, Linda, 66, was in critical condition.
Gerard Bassi, 51, was riding in the back seat of the Tahoe. He died at the scene. Denise Bassi, Gerard's wife and Linda McWilliams' daughter, died later at Bayfront. They lived in Connecticut.
Coggins said everyone except Belniak was wearing a seatbelt.
Records show his license is valid.
Times staff writer Jamal Thalji and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 869-6245.