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Witnesses: Driver was fleeing scene

A teenage driver had forced a car off the road before the head-on collision that killed a Spring Hill woman, witnesses say.

By JENNIFER FARRELL and JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- The teenager who swerved into oncoming traffic, killing a 38-year-old Spring Hill woman on Sunshine Grove Road on Friday evening, was fleeing the scene of a fender bender minutes earlier on State Road 50, according to witnesses.

"He ran us off the road . . . so we chased him and he slammed on his brakes," said Mike Costintino, 18, of Spring Hill. "Then he goes nuts and starts speeding even faster. He tried running away."

Authorities said Eric Allen Clark, 17, of Brooksville was being followed when his tan Ford Thunderbird crested a hill and veered into the path of Sharon L. Bryant of Moon Road, Brooksville.

Bryant drove her red Pontiac onto the shoulder to avoid Clark, who had two other teens in the car with him. Meanwhile, Clark swerved at the same time in the same direction, and the two cars collided head-on.

Bryant, who worked as a machine operator for Goodwin Brothers Construction Inc. in Brooksville was pronounced dead at the scene.

Clark and Melissa Wilcox, a 17-year-old Hernando High junior, were flown to Tampa General Hospital, where they were treated and released Saturday morning. Lawrence "J.R." Tenner, who was riding in the front passenger seat with Clark, was treated and released from Oak Hill Hospital.

After the crash, Vinny Dizeo, 24, one of two passengers in the 1991 Ford Explorer driven by Costintino, said he and his friends had tailed Clark to get a tag number from the car. Clark sped north on Sunshine Grove, passing several cars on the way, Costintino said.

"We figured we'd catch up to them at the next light," he said. "They were driving like crazy. Then they started going around cars from the left side."

Costintino said he lost sight of the Thunderbird briefly, but when he reached the top of the hill, the accident was over.

"He hit her head-on and they spun around," Dizeo said. "We went right through the smoke. She died instantly. I opened the door and she was already gone."

On Saturday, Wilcox said Clark had cut off the Explorer on SR 50 but tried to stop several times while being chased. She denied claims by Costintino and Dizeo that Clark was throwing bottles out his window as he fled.

"He was actually trying to slow down," she said. "They would get in front of us and stomp on their brakes."

Wilcox said she and Tenner were riding with Clark to a friend's house when they cut off the SUV on SR 50.

Bryant was headed home at the time of the crash, according to her fiance, Albert Johnson. Johnson said the collision happened less than a mile from their home.

The couple had planned to marry next year.

Neither Clark nor Tenner could be reached for comment Saturday.

The accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.

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