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1 killed, 1 injured in rollover

The two Crystal River women were returning home from a nightclub in Spring Hill when the driver lost control on U.S. 19.

By BILL VARIAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000


CHASSAHOWITZKA -- A Crystal River woman was killed early Thursday and the passenger in her car injured when she lost control of the vehicle on U.S. 19, flipping it, after returning home from a night out at Planet Bubba in Spring Hill, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Keisha Diana Wilkins, 21, of 1166 NE First St., Crystal River, was pronounced dead at Seven Rivers Community Hospital shortly after the 3:40 a.m. accident.

Investigators suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash, which occurred near the entrance to the Walden Woods community about 2 miles south of U.S. 98.

The passenger in the car, who walked three blocks to a home for help despite being thrown from the vehicle and suffering a broken back, said the two had been drinking, but not to excess.

"Had I been drinking? Yes," said Christi M. Mason, 24, of 1610 SE Paradise Circle, Crystal River. "Was I drunk? No," adding that the same was true of Wilkins.

Mason was listed in stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital, where she was flown by helicopter after the accident. She said she was being treated for broken ribs and a fractured backbone.

Mason said Wilkins had moved to Crystal River within the past four months and lived "for every moment." The two went shopping together and got manicures, she said, "girl stuff."

Neither woman was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

The accident is expected to add fuel to complaints about the nightclub. Neighbors of the club have been waging a campaign with Hernando County to shutter the nightclub, or at least curb activities there, complaining of loud noise coming from the club.

The club is owned by radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, who has been making complaints of his own, about excessive policing by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office has said it is responding to residents' complaints.

Deanna Dammer, public information officer for the agency, said Thursday's accident would not affect patrols near the nightclub.

"That's the kind of thing that can happen no matter where you're drinking," Dammer said. "I wouldn't comment and specifically link it to Bubba's."

Planet Bubba co-owner Richard Fabrizi said employees of the nightclub are trained to monitor for potential drunken drivers and call a cab if necessary. He called the accident a tragedy.

"Me and Bubba both feel terribly," he said. "We just want to give our condolences to the families."

Fabrizi noted that the time of the accident was more than two hours after the bar gives its last call for alcohol on Wednesday nights. He also said Wednesday night is typically not a night when customers drink to excess, based on bar receipts.

"We don't get a lot of heavy drinking," he said.

The highway patrol said Wilkins was traveling north in the right lane of U.S. 19 in a 1985 GMC Jimmy when the vehicle drifted onto the shoulder. Cpl. Earl Frazier, a traffic homicide investigator for the agency, said Wilkins then overcorrected and turned sharply toward the median, where the vehicle flipped, ejecting both people in the car.

Mason confirmed the account.

"She oversteered to get it back on the road and we flipped," she said.

Mason said that after being thrown a short distance from the car, she walked three blocks to a home and knocked on the door to ask the occupants to call 911. She confirmed a highway patrol account that she had visited Planet Bubba earlier in the evening with a group of friends, who stopped at the Steak 'n Shake for food after leaving the nightclub.

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