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Family survives van accident in north Pasco

All nine people riding in a van that flipped were injured, but none of the injuries appear life-threatening.

[Times photos: Dan McDuffie]
Rescue personnel work on a child hurt when a van crashed on the Suncoast Parkway Sunday afternoon.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


SPRING HILL -- Bruce and Jennifer McVey watched, stunned, Sunday as a van on the other side of the Suncoast Parkway smashed into a guardrail, flew into the air, spun, then rolled onto its side in the median.

The Tampa couple, going home after a visit with family in Spring Hill, pulled over shortly after 4:30 with a half-dozen others who had seen the northbound van go airborne in a tornado of glass, car parts and shredded guardrail.

photo
John Altieri of Spring Hill holds his son as he is examined after the van John was driving hit a guardrail and flipped.
Before the van stopped -- settling on the passenger side and facing the direction from which it was coming -- a young girl was thrown out and a little boy would be stuck underneath the crumpled front end.

The group of would-be rescuers ran to the van, each fearing what they would find.

"I thought for sure someone was going to be dead in there," Jennifer McVey said.

Nobody was.

The nine members of the Altieri family, on their way home to Spring Hill after a soccer tournament in Bradenton, were injured. But no one was in clearly life-threatening condition when they left the accident site nearly four miles north of State Road 52, in the Shady Hills area of northern Pasco County.

John Altieri, 45, the father and driver of the van, and his two young sons, Anthony and Christopher, were somewhat dazed and had glass cuts. John's wife, Tina, 39, was the most seriously injured and was flown by medical helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa with Gabrielle, 7, who was thrown from the van, and Joey, 9.

John, 14, Maria, 13, Jaclyn, 10, Anthony, 3, Christopher, 1, and their father were taken to Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill by ambulance.

Pasco County Fire Rescue District Chief Mike Ciccarello said everyone was stable, conscious and alert, and those who were flown out were taken to a trauma center to be checked out partly as a precaution.

"They're looking pretty lucky," he said.

The van hit the guardrail with enough force to shear a 10-foot segment and toss it 25 yards down the parkway, where it landed even with the van. The 14 wooden posts that held the rail were broken clean from the asphalt, smashed into slivers or left whole, still attached to 15 yards of twisted metal.

Scattered in the median, which was softened by the morning rains, were pieces of the van, bags, blankets and other debris from an outing at a soccer tournament.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Erik Bromiley said his investigation was just starting, but it looked like John Altieri fell asleep at the wheel. Bromiley said speed wasn't the cause of the crash and there were no other cars involved.

When witnesses got to the van, its radiator still hissing steam, some of the Altieris were trying to crawl out of it. Bruce McVey said he and others came around to the front of the van and found 3-year-old Anthony stuck under the bent framing of the front passenger area. He said he and others pulled the shattered glass away, pushed the van until it lifted off the boy and pulled him out through what had been the windshield.

"He was pretty scared," Jennifer McVey said. She said all of the young children were scared, so when Tina Altieri was pulled from the wreckage, she gathered them and brought them over to her.

"We found a toy to play with and they were okay," McVey said.

- Times Staff Writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247, or by e-mail at waite@sptimes.com.

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