Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Brookridge woman, 79, dies in wreck driving husband home from hospital

BROOKSVILLE — Bernard LaPorta had just been discharged from Brooksville Regional Hospital on Tuesday night, and his wife, Ellen, had come to pick him up.

As they were leaving, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, Ellen LaPorta, 79, drove into the path of an oncoming car. She was killed; her husband remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday.

Bernard LaPorta, 85, initially had been admitted to the hospital Monday, complaining that he was short of breath, according to family members.

His wife was driving a Hyundai Elantra north on Medical Center Drive at about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, on the way back to the couple's home in Brookridge, when, as she was crossing into the median on Cortez Boulevard, she was struck by an eastbound Buick Regal driven by 17-year-old Skye Evelyn Amato of Brooksville.

Amato suffered minor injuries, the FHP reported. Everyone was wearing seat belts, and alcohol wasn't a factor in the wreck.

The LaPortas' daughter, Katherine Poquette, and her husband, William F. Smith Jr., were waiting at the LaPortas' home when Ellen LaPorta called with the news that her husband was leaving the hospital, Smith said.

"We were so happy," he said.

An hour passed, and Poquette and Smith became worried that the couple had not arrived. They drove toward Brooksville Regional, retracing Ellen LaPorta's route.

"We pulled up on the accident," Smith said. "She gasped, and I told her, 'Don't think the worst yet.' "

Bernard LaPorta was hospitalized Wednesday at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson and had not yet been informed that his wife had died, Smith said Wednesday morning.

Natives of upstate New York, the couple moved to Florida in the 1990s after Bernard LaPorta retired from a career as a mechanic. His wife loved to crochet, and together they went on cruises, said Smith.

Poquette, one of the LaPortas' six children, said she was devastated.

"I don't know how to feel," she said.

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