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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


    Bike Week toll down from last year

    Bike Week 2001 recorded its fifth and six traffic deaths as the celebration wound up Sunday, for a total of less than half the number killed on Daytona Beach area roads and highways during last year's gathering.

    Last year, a record 15 people were killed en route to Daytona Beach, cruising the streets or heading away afterward. Highway safety advocates feared that the total would jump again this year, being the first Bike Week since Florida lawmakers repealed a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. But it didn't happen.

    Observers attributed that to boosted law enforcement and to a safety campaign sponsored by Bike Week officials and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The campaign included billboards, banners and cards that listed such safety tips as using headlights and not drinking and driving.

    Two bikers died Sunday.

    Dirk Piz, 45, of Denver was killed when he collided with another rider during a race at Daytona International Speedway.

    Richard A. Pierallini, 26, of Edgewater died soon after his motorcycle slammed into the side of a sport utility vehicle.

    Balcony fall injures spring breaker

    FORT LAUDERDALE -- A New Jersey teenager on spring break was in grave condition after a three-story fall from a hotel balcony around 4 a.m. Sunday.

    Witnesses said Michael Santiago, 19, a student at Rutgers University, was trying to jump from his room balcony into a swimming pool at a Days Inn when he lost his footing on the railing and fell onto concrete.

    Rushed to Broward General Medical Center with head and leg injuries, Santiago was listed in extremely critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Sara Howley said.

    Dr. Ralph Guarneri, a trauma surgeon, described Santiago as clinically brain-dead. "I don't believe he will recover at this point," Guarneri said Monday.

    Witnesses said Santiago successfully made the leap from the balcony to the pool three times before falling on the fourth try. "He went to grab the ceiling for some leverage and he slipped," said motel guest Michael Ball, 20, of Erie, Pa.

    Narcotic likely killed campers

    SARASOTA -- Authorities suspect that two men found dead Friday at Oscar Scherer State Park had been selling a prescription narcotic from their campsite for a week before taking enough to kill themselves.

    The bodies of Robert Reeves, 44, and Thomas Steele, 42, were discovered in a pup tent by a park manager. Syringes and more than $100 were found nearby.

    Sarasota County sheriff's investigators believe the men may have obtained the painkiller OxyContin with bogus prescriptions, then went to the park to sell it. Detectives have established from witnesses that numerous cars came in and out of the park between March 1 and March 7, visiting the men's campsite.

    A preliminary autopsy report showed no trauma to the men's bodies, indicating to detectives that the drugs were to blame. They suspect that the men simply overdosed.

    Steele and Reeves had no known residences. Authorities believe they may have traveled around southwest Florida selling the drug, which abusers often melt down and put into a syringe.

    The park is patrolled by state rangers, but sheriff's deputies do not regularly patrol it.

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    From the Times state desk