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Clearwater man dies after motorcycle hits truck

CLEARWATER — Gary Kitchen was riding his black Harley-Davidson motorcycle home from a dental appointment Thursday when, somehow, he lost control.

His wife, Cathy, had kissed him goodbye that morning, like every day she went to work.

"He's a homebody," she said of her husband of nearly 35 years, who couldn't work due to a medical condition.

But on Thursday, Kitchen never made it home.

The 55-year-old Clearwater resident died Thursday morning after he crashed his bike into the back of a semitrailer truck on Sunset Point Road near the intersection of Stetson Drive.

According to police, about 9:50 a.m. the truck was traveling westbound on Sunset Point Road in the median lane and attempted to make a right turn into the back lot of the Publix plaza at 1921 N Belcher Road. Because of the length of the truck, the driver made a wide turn into the driveway, police said.

Kitchen was traveling westbound in the curb lane when the truck began to turn into the parking lot. Police said he tried to speed up and pass, shifting to the median lane to avoid the truck. He lost control and was ejected from the bike.

He died at the scene.

Nearby resident Joe Hodge, 65, of Clearwater was taking his garbage out when he heard tires squealing. He saw Kitchen braking and sliding before crashing into the truck and being thrown underneath its rear left tires.

Hodge rushed inside to tell his wife to call 911.

"There's been a terrible accident," he said.

As police investigated, the semitrailer remained where it had stopped, angled and half in the street. The turn signal kept blinking.

Police closed Sunset Point Road between Belcher Road and Old Coachman Road in both directions for much of the morning and early afternoon to investigate. By 2:30 p.m., the road was open.

Cathy Kitchen, 55, who had been with Gary since they were both 15 years old, said he had ridden motorcycles since he was 13.

"He loved his motorcycle, and he loved riding," she said.

They would often ride together, taking short trips to nearby small cities, but never going too far.

She said the accident comes just shy of a milestone.

"Next week was our 36th anniversary," she said.

Joey Flechas can be reached at jflechas@sptimes.com. Staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

Clearwater man dies after motorcycle hits truck 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 7:50pm]
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