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Man killed in fiery truck crash

The 35-year-old victim was stopped at a traffic light on U.S. 19 when he was hit from behind by a driver with numerous infractions.

[Times photo: Janel Schroeder-Norton]
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper holds a sheet Friday to shield the victim of a U.S. 19 crash as investigators take photographs of the scene.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


BAYONET POINT -- It wasn't the collision that killed Ricky Ray Davis. It was the fire.

Davis' pickup exploded after a delivery truck rammed it from behind, authorities said. Witnesses heard Davis' screams as flames towered above nearby power lines.

"There was no saving him," said James Burriss of New Port Richey. "It was too hot."

Davis, 35, was driving a white GMC pickup truck south on U.S. 19 Friday morning. At about 7 a.m., he was stopped at the light at U.S. 19 and Beacon Woods Drive.

Witnesses said Davis' truck was rear-ended by a delivery truck driven by Ronald Alan Perez, whose record includes multiple traffic offenses. The impact pushed Davis' truck into the vehicle in front of it.

Davis's truck buckled in the middle, where the cab and bed come together. As it scraped the asphalt, sparks flew toward the gas tank, said James Myers IV, who was stopped at the light in his car.

Then, Myers said, an explosion "blew the truck to the sky.

"I sat there in shock. (Then) I got out of the car, and the guy in the little white truck was screaming, trying to get out of the truck."

Flames shot straight up, more than 10 feet above some nearby electrical wires, said Myers. The entire truck was engulfed in flames within seconds.

"The flames were intense where I was (50 feet away). Imagine how he was feeling," said Myers, who was sitting on his car and smoking a cigarette to calm down, as he waited to give a statement to Florida Highway Patrol troopers.

An hour after the crash, the truck's skeleton sat on the side of the road, charred and the color of gray primer paint.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Davis lived at 149 Canby Circle in Spring Hill.

The 1997 International delivery truck advertised Moen faucet fixtures on its side. Troopers said the truck's driver, Perez, lives at 9630 Bahia Loop in Land O'Lakes. He was not injured. The driver of the truck hit by Davis' pickup, Jay William Henry, 53, of 4301 W. Donali Court, Homosassa Springs, also escaped injury.

Perez has no fewer than nine traffic citations on his driving record, according to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. In 1997, Perez was cited for failing to yield after hitting a motorcyclist in Pinellas County. In 1999, he was cited for careless driving after he rear-ended a car in Largo.

Perez, when reached Friday night, acknowledged his driving history but said he has not yet been cited in the crash. He estimated that he was going about 48 to 50 mph when he crashed into Davis' truck. Perez said he doesn't know if he was at fault in the crash.

"All I can think of now is that guy screaming," he said.

The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating Friday's crash.

Davis' death was the sixth fatality in Pasco County this past week.

So far this year, 43 people have died in car crashes in Pasco County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The number of motorists who are killed on Pasco's roads has been increasing since 1996, when 60 people died. Last year's accident toll was 81.

- Times researchers Cathy Wos and Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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