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Bicyclist killed at Pinellas Trail crossing

A cement truck slammed into the 87-year-old cyclist on the trail in Tarpon Springs.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2000

TARPON SPRINGS -- An 87-year-old man riding a bicycle on the Pinellas Trail was struck by a cement truck and killed Thursday morning.

The man was hit about 8:20 a.m. in the crosswalk where the trail crosses Klosterman Road just east of the Alt. U.S. 19 intersection.

The bicyclist's name was withheld by Tarpon Springs police Thursday until his next of kin, who live out of state, could be notified.

Tarpon police Sgt. Tom Hill said the bicyclist was riding north and was struck by the cement truck, which was heading south on Alt. U.S. 19 and made a left onto Klosterman Road.

Tarpon Springs emergency workers took the man to Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Although the police report states the driver of the cement truck, Raymond Cooper, 52, of Weeping Willow Drive in Port Richey, was not injured in the crash, he also was taken to Helen Ellis Memorial.

"He was quite shaken up," Tarpon Springs Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Bowman said of Cooper.

Hill said the police investigation of the accident is continuing and no charges have been filed.

Cooper, a driver for BETER Mix Concrete out of Hudson, declined to be interviewed Thursday.

State records show Cooper was convicted for driving violations four times between 1986 and 1993. Twice, he was convicted of speeding in Illinois, once in May of 1986 and again in February of 1991. In November of 1991, he was convicted of careless or improper driving in Illinois. And in 1993, he was convicted of speeding in South Carolina.

A bus carrying 16 students to Sunset Hills Elementary came upon the accident Thursday morning moments after it occurred. The bus driver was among those who called 911.

The sight left several of the young students traumatized, said principal William Brewer.

"Several of them were visibly upset," Brewer said.

A counselor spoke to the students at school as a group and then spoke to several one-on-one throughout the day. At least one student went home early.

Sharon Shappell, owner of Sharon's Flower Depot on Klosterman Road near the Pinellas Trail, said she frequently hears the screech of brakes signaling near-collisions between cars and bicyclists and in-line skaters crossing Klosterman Road. Few users of the Pinellas Trail push the pedestrian crossing button, she said. Police said it was undetermined whether the 87-year-old bicyclist had pushed the button before crossing.

"This was bound to happen at some point," Shappell said.

Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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