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Six-vehicle crash kills 1, ties up U.S. 19
By JANE MEINHARDT
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000
CLEARWATER -- A Sarasota man who police say was driving drunk at 8 a.m. Friday on U.S. 19 slammed into a car, triggering a chain-reaction accident that killed a Clearwater woman and backed up rush-hour traffic for miles.
Takeshi Teshima, 54, who owns several restaurants, was arrested and charged with DUI-manslaughter and careless driving after the six-vehicle accident. He was being held at Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Teshima has been cited in five accidents since 1984, records show, and has been convicted of nine traffic infractions since 1991, including three charges of careless driving and two of speeding.
On Friday, Patricia Hall Roberts, 68, was critically injured when the impact of Teshima's Dodge Ram pickup shoved her Saturn station wagon beneath a stopped Mercury Cougar. She died at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg about an hour after the accident.
"It was like a freight train accident," said Clearwater police Sgt. Tom Miller. "It was impact and solid push."
The accident happened on U.S. 19 about 200 yards south of Harn Boulevard. A line of southbound vehicles had stopped for a traffic light in the lane next to the median.
Roberts, who was driving a gold Saturn, approached the stopped vehicles and was rear-ended by Teshima's truck, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. The Saturn shot forward and wedged itself under a red Cougar driven by Gerardo Orlando, 39, of Palm Harbor.
"I was stopped at the light, and I felt a jolt," said Orlando, a computer systems engineer. "Next thing I knew, my whole car was up in the air. I'm looking around, and I see smoke coming from in front of me, so I shut off my engine. "I didn't realize I was up on top of her car until I tried to get out of my car."
Orlando had minor injuries to his knees and shins from hitting the dashboard of his car. His Cougar, atop the Saturn, hit the rear of a Chevrolet van driven by Paul King, 35, of Oldsmar.
"When the Saturn submarined the Cougar and they hit me, it made me plop back in my seat," said King. "The impact pulled me up and set me back."
His van hit the back of Pamela Kisfalusi's black Toyota 4-Runner, which, in turn, bumped the rear of a Saturn sedan driven by Marc A. Silver. Both Clearwater residents were not hurt.
"I always keep a car length or more in front of me when I stop," said Silver, who turned 27 Friday. "I'm just glad I didn't have my wife and nieces with me, like I usually do."
Roberts just got her 1997 Saturn about two months ago, said Rich Sprott, her next-door neighbor at Top of the World condominium. He occasionally took her grocery shopping when her previous car malfunctioned, but did not know where she was headed Friday.
"She lived alone, I live alone and she had me over for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner," said Sprott, 64. "I am so shocked and sad. She wanted to take me for a ride in her new car and never got around to it."
Shelor said investigators do not know what caused Teshima to hit Roberts' car or how fast he was traveling when the accident happened.
Southbound traffic was rerouted through the Morningside subdivision to Belcher Road and back to U.S. 19 until about 11:30 a.m.
State records show Teshima is an owner of Joto Restaurant on Countryside Boulevard. A woman at the restaurant declined to comment. Teshima also is an owner of a Japanese restaurant on Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.