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Concrete pole in Dunedin figures in another car crash

DUNEDIN — A 62-year-old Dunedin man became the latest victim of a dangerously placed concrete pole on Main Street near Lady Marion Lane, after his sport utility vehicle slammed into it and trapped him inside for more than an hour Monday morning.

The crash is one of several with the pole in recent years, according to Dunedin Fire District Chief Trip Barrs. The pole is one of two that are increasingly worrisome for officials.

The roughly 40-foot-high structures, one on either side of State Road 580, or Main Street, appear to have once supported a sign, said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

"They don't seem to really serve any purpose right now," she said, adding that the agency was going to begin the process of taking the poles down.

In Monday's crash, rescuers worked for an hour to extract Richard J. Szczerbacki from his Saturn SUV.

Szczerbacki was traveling west on Main Street when he appeared unable to merge from the far right lane and crashed into the concrete structure, Barrs said.

"There's no reason for the poles to even be there," said Curtis Delancey, who manages a nearby store. The poles are just an unnecessary risk for drivers, he said.

Near the crash site at 1260 Main St., the road narrows from three lanes to two. Witnesses to the accident told authorities that the Szczerbacki's vehicle began to swerve before it crashed into the pole.

"If you fail to make that merge, you will hit this pole," Barrs said.

Szczerbacki was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with non-life-threatening injuries. His condition was not available.

Police still are investigating to determine what exactly caused the crash.

But the Szczerbacki crash isn't unique.

Dunedin officials couldn't figure precisely how many crashes have occurred at the spot, but a similar accident to Monday's occurred in May 2004, Barrs said. In that instance, two people were injured.

"The cracks on that pole are not just from today," he said.

In Szczerbacki's case, the Saturn ricocheted off the pole and spun completely around. His foot was pinned between the gas and brake pedals and the floorboard.

"Every time we tried to move him, he would scream out in pain," Barrs said. "What a mess."

Times photographer Douglas R. Clifford contributed to this report. Brian Spegele can be reached at bspegele@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4154.

Concrete pole in Dunedin figures in another car crash 08/10/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 10, 2009 7:59pm]
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