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Within several hours, one man was killed in Brooksville and two more died in Spring Hill. ''This is very unusual,'' said one sheriff's official.
By JAMIE MALERNEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001
Three people were killed in separate car accidents Wednesday, making it one of the deadliest days Hernando County emergency officials say they can remember in terms of multiple wrecks.
Within several hours, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a car just west of Brooksville, a two-car collision on Spring Hill Drive sent one man to the hospital with fatal injuries, and another man had a heart attack while on driving U.S. 19, where he collided with a steptruck and died.
"This is very unusual, having this many in a row," Hernando County sheriff's spokeswoman Deanna Dammer said. "Let's hope it's not a trend."
In the first accident, Homer T. Brown, 56, of 15312 State Road south of Brooksville was walking in the middle of State Road 50 near California Street at 3 a.m. when a 1998 Lincoln also traveling east on 50 hit him, a Florida Highway Patrol report said. He died at the scene, a little more than a mile from his home. The driver, Richard Bittner, 42, of Coram, N.Y., was not cited in the accident, which officials said was not-alcohol related. Officials released no more information, and family members could not be reached.
In the second crash, a 71-year-old Spring Hill man was killed after the car he was in pulled out onto Spring Hill Drive in front of another vehicle, the patrol said. James Murray of 11222 Blythville Road in Spring Hill was flown to Bayfront Medical Center with serious injuries and pronounced dead. The driver of the car Murray was in, Betty S. Pittman, 51, of 9099 Horizon Drive in Spring Hill was cited with violating right of way, the patrol report said.
According to troopers, Pittman stopped at a stop sign on Horizon Drive about 9:45 a.m. and turned onto Spring Hill Drive in front of a westbound vehicle driven by Tampa resident Carole Watson, 60. The left-front side of Pittman's 1995 Ford hit the front of Watson's 1994 Toyota, totaling it.
Pittman was taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. State records show that she has been previously cited for failing to yield to traffic while entering a Polk County highway in 1991 and failing to obey a traffic sign in Hillsborough County in 1993.
Another passenger in her car, Sarah Murray, 61, of Spring Hill received minor injuries. Watson was not injured. It is unknown whether James Murray was wearing his seat belt. All other drivers and occupants were wearing theirs, the report said.
In the final wreck, a man who had complained to his wife about having chest pains earlier Wednesday morning began driving erratically while heading south on U.S. 19 at 10:20 a.m., witnesses said. Albert Borza, 60, of 2451 Ainsworth Ave. in Spring Hill then ran over a median at the intersection of Trenton Avenue and U.S. 19 and plowed into northbound traffic.
Robert Heroux of Hudson was sitting at a red light when he saw Borza's van come at him. The van sideswiped his car's left side and then smashed into the front of another steptruck behind him, he said.
"He wasn't looking where he was going. At first, I thought he was reaching for a cigarette lighter. But they say he had a heart attack and was weaving in and out of the road," Heroux said.
Borza, a husband and father of two daughters, died at the scene. The driver of the white steptruck he hit, John Stehr, 50 of 1023 Falcon Ave. in Spring Hill, was flown to Bayfront Medical Center. He was released Wednesday.
Stehr's wife, Diane, said her husband had seen the driver speeding toward him and escaped serious injury by throwing himself toward the passenger side of his steptruck and out the side door.
"I don't know he did it; he did it so fast," she marveled. "He's so lucky."
Borza's family members declined to comment. Friends described Borza, a house painter who owned his own business, as a caring man who loved his family and golf.
"He had a kind heart, that's for sure," said Joe Parsolano, an old friend who arrived at the accident scene to console Borza's widow.