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Each cross has a story of its own

Motorists often wonder about the circumstances that lead to a cross or memorial being erected. Here are some stories.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


ODESSA -- Roadside memorials, while bringing a small measure of comfort to people who lost family members on the road, can evoke different reactions from passers-by.

Curiosity is one.

"We need to learn what conditions lead up to these accidents," said Paul Lewis of Odessa. "Is it the road, the trees, or is it more the impatience of drivers, preoccupation, sleeping or drinking?"

Sometimes it is all of these things, and sometimes it is none of these things.

Sometimes there are no answers as to why a loved one had to die while doing something as mundane as going to work or coming home.

Here are some of the more familiar crosses in northern Hillsborough, which many of us see in our daily travels.

* * *

A simple cross marks the spot on U.S. 41 and Dubuel Road in Lutz where Andrea Howard, a 17-year-old Gaither High School teen, was killed eight months ago when the car she was riding in with three friends was hit broadside. None of the other teens was seriously hurt.

* * *

A simple cross marks the spot on Van Dyke Road, near Gunn Highway where Christopher Anthony Ochab died nearly three years ago. Ochab, 23, was riding with a friend on Van Dyke Road when his friend, who was speeding, lost control of the car while trying to pass another car. Their car crashed into two poles and a water main before landing upside down. Ochab died inside the car. The driver was thrown clear.

* * *

Three crosses, nearly 7 feet tall, marked the spot at Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard where three University of South Florida students died last November. Leanna Dawson, 19, of New Jersey, Majid Tahri, 20, of Morocco, and Jackie Ayala, 18, of New York, all perished when their car was rammed from the rear. A fourth student survived. The four friends were returning to campus after a late-night fast-food run.

* * *

Two crosses, festooned with American flags, mark the spot on Gunn Highway just north of Cosme Road where two friends died nearly three years ago when their car hit another head on. Timothy Bennett, 27, of Town 'N Country was riding with David Scott Logsdon, 27, of Lake Carlton Arms apartments in Lutz when Logsdon's Dodge Daytona veered off the road and onto the shoulder. When Logsdon turned back onto the road his car crossed into the northbound lane, hitting the other car. Both men were thrown from the Dodge.

* * *

A simple cross marks the spot on Tarpon Springs Road, just west of Spenser Road, where Michael E. Walters, 32, of Spring Hill died last February. Walters was headed east on Tarpon Springs Road when his Ford Bronco crossed the center line and collided with a roofing truck.

-- Source of accident descriptions: St. Petersburg Times files.

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