SEMINOLE —The sun was beating down on the Route 68 bus stop on Bay Pines Boulevard on Thursday afternoon, so Russell Seals walked away to seek shade behind a sign.
He says it saved his life.
Moments later, Seals saw a black Ford Mustang GT fishtail on the corner of 100th Way N. The driver, Charles Selvan, 55, had just exited the Bay Pines VA Medical Center and turned left to go west, Pinellas County sheriff''s deputies said.
When Selvan corrected the car, it accelerated, screeching rubber, Seals said. About 200 feet away, four people were waiting on the bus stop bench.
"It just shot forward and took out the whole bench and everybody on it," said Seals, 59, of Madeira Beach.
The force of the crash tore apart the concrete and wood bench and knocked down a street lamp. Seals saw several people flung about 40 feet.
"The garbage can flew, debris flew," Seals said. "I don't know what hit me, but it knocked me down."
Pamela Kiely, 50, of Punta Gorda suffered serious injuries to her legs, deputies said, and was taken to Bayfront Medical Center by helicopter.
Four other people, including Seals, suffered minor injuries after they were struck by flying debris, deputies said. Among them was Kiely's husband, Thomas Kiely, 59, also taken to Bayfront.
Deputies said that John Howard White, 59, of St. Petersburg and Gregory K. Schnare, 54, of Madeira Beach, and Seals were treated at Bay Pines.
Seals said Selvan of Seminole told onlookers that he lost control and that the brake pedal locked up. Traffic stopped in both directions as several motorists got out of their cars to help the injured.
Deputies said Selvan, a nursing assistant at Bay Pines, was cooperative and remained at the scene. They were investigating whether a vehicle that Selvan passed at the intersection may have caused him to lose control.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said no charges were filed Thursday night, though an investigation was continuing.
Selvan's driving record in Pinellas county shows three citations — one from 2005 for speeding in a school zone and two from 2007 for speeding and not obeying a traffic device.
Seals, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, was at Bay Pines for a routine medical visit. He walked out of the emergency room with a sore midsection and some prescribed pain medication.
"I feel blessed that I am walking away," he said.