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Man dies after hitting parked car

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2000

WESLEY CHAPEL -- A Tampa man was killed Sunday night when the car he was driving struck a vehicle parked in the emergency lane of Interstate 75 and spun into a cluster of trees, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The accident happened about 8:15 p.m. as Joseph Chester Lewallen, 32, 2518 N 58th St., and a passenger were headed north on the interstate.

About 2 miles north of State Road 54, Lewallen, for unknown reasons, veered into the emergency lane, according to a highway patrol news release. By the time he saw the car parked in the emergency lane, it was too late.

Lewallen steered to the left, but he clipped the back end of the parked car, the highway patrol said. Lewallen's car spun clockwise onto the east shoulder and struck several trees.

Lewallen and his passenger, 27-year-old David William Owen Jr., 4402 Airport Road in Plant City, were thrown from the vehicle. Lewallen, who was not wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene. Owen was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he was listed in stable condition Monday.

The force of the impact with the trees caused the engine of Lewallen's car to break free, starting a small brush fire, according to Sgt. James Tobin of the highway patrol.

The driver and passenger of the parked car, Amir Madani and Jamie Engle, both of Dade City, suffered minor injuries. They were sitting inside Madani's car when they were struck by Lewallen's vehicle, authorities said. Both complained of neck and back pain and were treated at a local hospital.

Tobin said investigators think alcohol played a role in the accident. He also said Lewallen was driving faster than the posted speed limit of 70 mph.

YMCA denies charges in woman's lawsuit

DADE CITY -- The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has rejected a Crystal Springs woman's claim that it is responsible for her granddaughter's near drowning at the Zephyrhills YMCA pool in 1997.

In a response to Joy Sutton's March lawsuit, YMCA attorney Edward Gagain said the woman and her granddaughter were responsible for the incident and said the family agreed up front to limited liability when the girl signed up for a one-week camp.

In her suit, Sutton said her granddaughter, Hope Rhodes, was 5 years old in March 1997 when she nearly drowned in the YMCA pool while playing a game of "dead man's float."

Her suit says the YMCA didn't have enough lifeguards on duty and that the family had told camp operators that the girl did not know how to swim but were expecting the camp to help teach her.

Gagain's response denies the YMCA is at fault and says Sutton is responsible because she knew of the potential danger but let her granddaughter take part in the program anyway.

According to the lawsuit and the family's attorney, Hope had to be airlifted to a Tampa hospital after the near drowning and continues to suffer respiratory problems.

No trial date has been set.

Pasco woman sues sheriff over 1997 arrest

NEW PORT RICHEY -- A Pasco County woman filed a lawsuit against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, saying she was injured while being wrongfully arrested.

Marita Robinson, in her lawsuit, says that on March 6, 1997, she made a call to the Sheriff's Office about a neighborhood dispute. Robinson said that Deputy Chris La Framboise came into her house without a warrant or an invitation and remained there without her consent.

Robinson says that the deputy struck her, injuring her ribs, and arrested her for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Those charges, according to the suit, later were dropped. Robinson said she was unlawfully arrested and La Framboise lied in testimony against her.

The Pasco County Circuit Civil Court suit, which names La Framboise and Sheriff Lee Cannon, asks for $100,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

Sheriff's spokesmen were unavailable Tuesday evening for comment.

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