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A tragic crossing

An 18-year-old's long-awaited days on a motorcycle come to a sudden, deadly end at the intersection of Armenia Avenue and W Country Club Drive.

By MICHAEL SANDLER and MIKE PEASE

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


CARROLLWOOD -- Friends say Randall Dale Barber always wanted a motorcycle. Boone, as they knew him, lived to ride, and whether they were hanging out at his parents' home or at the Texaco station next door, that's all he talked about.

He'd had dirt bikes, but he wanted the real thing. So this summer, the 18-year-old young man finally went against his parents' wishes and bought a 1997 Suzuki.

"He wanted it for years," said Sean Ramirez, 17. "His parents finally gave in."

On Saturday, Barber died on the bike he loved.

Sheriff's deputies say he was killed that afternoon in a head-on collision at the intersection of Armenia Avenue and W Country Club Drive, about three blocks from home.

Traveling north on Armenia at a high speed, he tried passing another northbound vehicle just south of the intersection, sheriff's officials said. Seconds before, a 1996 Land Rover turned left onto southbound Armenia from W Country Club. Barber hit the SUV nearly head-on and was thrown 60 feet from his bike. Barber, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sgt. Rod Reder, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said investigators estimate Barber was traveling 90 mph in the 35 mph zone. He said the accident remained under investigation but the other driver is not expected to be charged.

"This is a dangerous corner," said Richard Caron, 40, who has lived on the southwest corner of Armenia and Country Club the past five years. "Two people have been killed here since I have lived here. I've heard people come by here at night at (seemingly) 130 miles per hour."

Ramirez said Barber worked as a general contractor and was just getting off work. The two friends had planned to get together that afternoon. Normally, he rode to and from work with a co-worker, Ramirez said. But that day he decided to take the bike.

"It was the only day his buddy did not pick him up," said Ramirez, a senior at Chamberlain High School. "He rode his bike to get here quicker."

The two friends met when Ramirez was in the second grade. Barber, a year older, became his mentor. Barber was skilled with his hands and had a deft touch as a mechanic. They rode dirt bikes together, spent hours at Barber's home on Woodleigh Avenue and hung around the Texaco station next door.

"He was like a brother to me, like a father," Ramirez said. "He fixed everybody's things."

Since the accident, friends have turned the tragic intersection into a shrine covered with graffiti, spray-painting the road and planting three crosses on Caron's lawn.

Caron did not mind, even though some of the painting overlapped onto his property.

"That don't bother me," he said. "He had a lot of friends. I don't mind the crosses either. Only thing that bothers me was the red paint on my tree. The other stuff will come off with a wire brush.'

Friends painted their epitaphs from one side of the road to the other, covering an area nearly 40 yards long and the entire width of the two-lane road.

Boone, we won't forget ... You will always be in my heart ... you will be missed ... need for speed ...

"They've been out there for almost three days," said Mary Parsons, who lives in a house on Country Club across from Caron. "A steady stream of people until the cops finally said enough. I guess they really liked him."

- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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