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Car leaves destructive path before hitting Clearwater house

Front yards along Hercules Avenue were damaged by an out-of-control car Friday.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Front yards along Hercules Avenue were damaged by an out-of-control car Friday.

CLEARWATER — Steve Wyatt was eating his oatmeal early Friday morning when he heard what sounded like yet another crash on N Hercules Avenue, the north-south road on the other side of his backyard hedges.

Then he heard another crash and another.

He was still sitting when a white Crown Victoria burst into the picture window wall of his wood-frame house, pushing a snowplow of debris into the living room.

The car stopped just a foot from Wyatt; its hood poked 5 feet into the living room, scattering glass and furniture and pieces of the wall.

Wyatt's wife, Suzanne, ran out from the bedroom to ask if her husband was okay. "I don't know yet," he said. He was still looking for his flip-flops.

The Wyatts couldn't see the driver because the fallen wall covered the windshield. By the time Steve Wyatt went around to his back yard at 2072 Butternut Circle, the driver was gone. A few drops of blood were left on the steering wheel.

Cars and trucks hit buildings often enough that it's not an unusual event. But in this case, the destructive detour lasted the length of two football fields. The car slalomed between telephone poles, busted three fences, scraped a building, knocked down a mailbox, a road sign and shrubbery — all before it crashed into the Wyatts' house.

In all, five properties were affected.

While the cause of the crash is undetermined and the driver has not been found, police have some information.

They say the driver was southbound on Hercules just north of Union Street. For some reason, the car veered off onto the east side of the road, through two yards, crossed a street, and then went through three more yards before fishtailing into the Wyatts' house.

The owner of the Ford, Richard F. Heuthe, 50, of Palm Harbor, told authorities the vehicle had been stolen earlier Friday morning.

Julie Bolanger, who lives one house up the street from the Wyatts, heard the noise but didn't think it had anything to do with her until she saw the red and blue lights flashing in the street.

She was shocked when she checked out her back yard.

Both she and Steve Wyatt said they had always worried about something like this happening.

Bolanger used to have a child's trampoline in the back yard — in what would have been the path of this car — but she moved it because she was worried about traffic. She and her husband had talked about putting concrete blocks on the side of Hercules Road to prevent cars from crashing through their privacy fence.

The fire department was able stabilize the Wyatts' house with wooden supports.

"Everything can be fixed," Steve Wyatt said, inside his house. "It's just a little bit of a speed bump. It could have been a lot worse."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or jabel@sptimes.com.

Car leaves destructive path before hitting Clearwater house 11/21/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 22, 2008 10:52pm]
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