New Port Richey Man Killed in Pickup Truck Rollover
None of the five people in the pickup truck was wearing a seatbelt when it rolled over in East Lake on Tuesday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Two people were riding in the bed of the truck.
A New Port Richey man was killed Tuesday afternoon and four people were injured when he lost control of a pickup truck he was driving and rolled on East Lake Road on Tuesday afternoon.
The Florida Highway Patrol says none of the five people in the white 2006 Ford Ranger pickup was wearing a seatbelt. Two of the passengers were riding in the bed of the pickup. No other vehicles were involved in the crash.
The accident happened near the East Lake Library. Robert Lee Lewis, 21, of New Port Richey, was driving the truck in a northbound lane of East Lake Rd/CR 611 around 2:35 p.m. when it veered into the grassy median. Lewis then overcorrected, and the pickup went back into the northbound lanes and rolled over several times, according to Florida Highway Patrol Spokesperson Steve Gaskins.
East Lake Fire Rescue crews responded to the crash. Chief Tom Jamison says a majority of the passengers in the truck were ejected. Ross Weber, 21, of Palm Harbor, and Breann Jennies, 14, of Lutz were riding in the truck's cab. Both suffered serious injuries, according to Gaskins. Weber was transported to Bayonet Point Medical Center in Hudson. Jennies was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
Brian Fonseca, 22, of Lutz and Alexis Peshek, 14, of Tampa, were riding in the bed of the pickup. Both suffered serious injuries, according to Gaskins. Fonseca was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital. Peshek was transported to Bayonet Point Medical Center.
A woman who volunteers at the East Lake Library happened to leave the library shortly after the accident. She told Palm Harbor Patch that she saw one of the victims laying in a nearby ditch.
"All I could think was, 'What if it had been mine?' " she said as she sat outside the Ridgemoor Starbucks with her friends.
The accident happened just five minutes before school let out at nearby Cypress Woods Elementary. Many students walk home on the sidewalk that is in front of the library (see photos).
A northbound stretch of East Lake Road was closed for at least three hours while Florida Highway Patrol investigators collected evidence. Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies set up a roadblock at the intersection of Ridgemoor Boulevard and East Lake Road. The roadblock caused northbound traffic to backup down East Lake Road and on to McMullen Booth Road. The backup ended just past Tampa Road.
Three fire trucks from East Lake Fire Rescue responded to the crash. One truck from Palm Harbor Fire Rescue also responded.
The FHP is continuing to investigate the crash. It is not known if the incident was alcohol related.
It is legal to ride in the bed of a pickup truck on most roads in Florida except on limited access roads like the Veteran's Expressway or I-75, according to Gaskins.