WEEKI WACHEE — A motorcyclist was killed and several people injured in a traffic crash that temporarily closed the southbound lanes of U.S. 19 on Wednesday.
Gilbert Burton, 71, of Spring Hill, died at the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said. He was riding north on a 2000 Yamaha when he attempted to turn left at Happy Days Drive in front of Walgreens, troopers said.
Burton collided with a Mitsubishi Outlander being driven south in the outside lane by Demetrio Baez-Figueroa, 80, of Spring Hill, troopers said.
The sport utility vehicle rolled several times after impact, witnesses said. The motorcycle and SUV both came to rest in a culvert in front of Walgreens.
Baez-Figueroa was taken to Oak Hill Hospital with minor injuries. Six passengers were also in the SUV, several of whom were children who sat in the grassy culvert in neck braces before being taken from the scene by ambulance.
The highway patrol said the children, who ranged in age from 3 to 15, escaped with minor injuries, but passenger Joann Baez, 50, of Spring Hill, was seriously injured and flown to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.
Witnesses said the crash happened as people were leaving or heading to awards ceremonies at nearby Winding Waters K-8 school. Southbound lanes on U.S. 19-Commercial Way were temporarily closed while emergency workers responded to the wreck.
“I was sitting at the stop sign, waiting to go north when I saw the motorcycle coming,” said witness Sonia Militscher. “He slowed down, then he sped up” as he entered the intersection.
“I don’t think he saw the car coming,” she said.
Dole Baumgartner, of Spring Hill, was waiting to turn in the median when she said the motorcycle “zipped” past her.
“Then, the noise” of impact, she said. “It was thunderous. He shot past the side of my car and hit the other car. He didn’t stop.”