ST. PETE BEACH — Residents along a tree-lined boulevard in Pass-a-Grille were awakened early Saturday by a spectacular car crash that sounded like gunshots.
Within moments, the clamor of the accident and arrival of emergency crews brought many residents onto the sidewalk, looking for answers.
By Monday, speculation and rumor were filling in missing pieces of the story as police tried to determine such basics as the names of the four teens in the car when it veered off the road about 5 a.m. What investigators do know is the blue Ford Taurus swerved off Pass-a-Grille Way, probably much faster than the 25 mph limit marked on the road sign it bent into a kink.
The car hit a mature palm tree at its base and snapped it in two. It then burst through two small fences at adjoining homes and went airborne as it hit an ornamental brick well. Shearing back from the bottom of a massive tree limb, the car rolled in midair and landed on its roof on 30th Avenue, more than 100 feet from where it left the road.
One male teen was ejected and was in critical condition Monday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Another teen was partly thrown from the rear window. His condition is unknown. Two passengers crawled out of the vehicle, said St. Pete Beach assistant fire Chief Tom Malone. Three, he said, were taken to Bayfront.
"You have to believe high speed had to be a factor," Malone said. "They're very lucky all four didn't die. It was pretty impressive. A palm tree doesn't generally give like that."
Malone said none of the passengers was carrying identification but one female victim's mother, who owned the car, was at the scene as police began investigating.
St. Pete Beach police Officer Brett Schambach said police had not determined after an initial interview with the mother, Rachel Bolinder, whether her car had been stolen or taken with permission.
Schambach and Malone said there were no obvious indications that alcohol or drugs contributed to the crash, and Schambach said his department did not request toxicology tests.
Schambach said it appeared the four passengers in the Taurus and Bolinder were "at another residence on Pass-a-Grille Way earlier in the evening" but there had been no reports of trouble, he said.
The owners of the home at 3000 Pass-a-Grille Way, where the car left the road, were not home at the time of the accident.