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    Driver cited in death of bus passenger


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 13, 2001

    CLEARWATER -- An elderly woman whose car hit and killed a passenger getting off a bus last month has been cited for careless driving.

    Dorotha Vettel, 89, of Clearwater has received a non-criminal citation in connection with the June 4 accident at U.S. 19 and Belleair Road, Florida Highway Patrol troopers reported.

    Ninel Simonova, 61, was getting off a PSTA bus near Orange Blossom Groves when Vettel's silver Ford Crown Victoria veered onto the shoulder and struck her. Simonova was killed.

    Because the crash was fatal, Vettel must appear before a judge, who could fine her up to $500 and require up to 120 hours of community service. The typical fine for careless driving is $60.

    FHP Lt. Sterling King said the judge also could require her to take a re-examination to keep her driver's license.

    Vettel is to appear in court July 20.

    Reached at her home Thursday, Vettel declined to comment.

    FHP investigators determined Vettel did not see the bus stopped in the far right lane until she was close behind it, King said.

    Vettel reacted by steering to her right, onto the road's shoulder. The car struck Simonova, blasted apart a bus stop bench and slammed into a guard rail. Vettel was treated for her injuries at a hospital.

    Vettel was not charged criminally because there was no evidence that she was negligent or reckless. She didn't blaze through a red light or speed through thick traffic, nor was she under the influence of anything that impaired her driving, King said. She simply made a mistake resulting in a death.

    "It's just like any other traffic crash where someone is looking down and they run into a tree ... or hit somebody from the rear," King said.

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