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Family trip turns into tragedy

A family in a van is struck head-on by a car going the wrong way. A mother of three is killed. The car's driver also dies.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 16, 2001

HUDSON -- Easter is usually a big day for LaRita Shetler and her family. This year, it was full of tears.

Shetler and several family members were driving to pick up her daughter's Easter dress late Saturday when they were hit head-on by a woman driving on the wrong side of the road, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The crash killed Shetler, 26, of Hudson. The other car's driver, Shelby C. Smith, 34, of Tampa, also died.

"It's just like a numbness. It's not real yet," said 66-year-old Marjorie Hydas, Shetler's aunt and neighbor.

Troopers, who were investigating the crash Sunday, said it was alcohol-related.

Hydas said she was watching the family's 7-year-old daughter, LaRisa, Saturday night while the rest of the family drove to Woodhaven Church of God in north central Pasco.

LaRita Shetler's father, the Rev. C.L. Eubanks, is the pastor at Woodhaven Church, Hydas said. LaRisa's dress was at the church.

Her family's 1993 Dodge was headed east on Denton Avenue, troopers said. Smith was driving west in the eastbound lanes of the same road.

The two vehicles collided about 7:50 p.m. near Matis Road, troopers said.

Shetler's husband, 29-year-old Jerry Wayne Shetler, was driving, troopers said. He was treated and released Saturday night from Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.

Their children, 5-year-old Amanda Jane Shetler and 3-year-old Joshua Ryan Shetler, were flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, troopers said.

They were at All Children's Hospital Sunday night, a hospital spokeswoman said. At the family's request, their conditions were not being released.

Hydas said Joshua Shetler suffered broken bones and Amanda Shetler had internal bleeding.

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