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Couple killed in east Tampa crash 'loved one another so much'

TAMPA — They were a few blocks away from home, the preacher and his wife, when they collided with another car and died in a mess of metal Thursday night.

Walter Charles Givens, 67, had just picked up his wife, 55-year-old Dione, from work at the Oakwood Park Su Casa nursing home about a mile down the road. One of her co-workers, Helen Cummings, 58, caught a ride.

As Walter Givens headed east on Chelsea Street in his blue Buick, a white Dodge Charger approached southbound on 34th Street.

They got to the intersection at the same time, crashing at 8:41 p.m. Authorities have not determined who was at fault and did not release further details of the crash. Toxicology tests for both drivers were pending, and no charges had been filed Friday.

The Givenses died at the scene. Cummings was pronounced dead after being taken to Tampa General Hospital.

The driver of the Charger, 20-year-old Ernest Smith, was also taken to Tampa General, where he remained Friday afternoon with a broken femur, his lawyer said. Smith's two passengers, Patrick Cover, 30, and DeAndre Bugg, 22, were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and released.

"It's a tragedy, clearly," said Smith's lawyer, Wade Whidden, declining to comment further.

After the crash, more than 100 people crowded the scene, some complaining that the intersection is dangerous because a building on the northeast corner obstructs views of oncoming traffic. But police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the building didn't affect this crash because the cars were heading south and east.

Police said this was the intersection's 11th crash since Jan. 1, 2008, and the first fatality there. "Relatively speaking, that is not a high number of crashes, particularly for that time period," said Tampa's transportation manager, Jean Dorzback.

Both drivers' records include traffic infractions. Smith was cited twice last year for speeding, and Givens got a ticket in 2006 for failure to stop at a red light, according to the Department of Transportation.

State records show that Smith has been on felony probation since March for a 2009 conviction of aggravated assault with a weapon. He was arrested a second time about a year ago in Temple Terrace on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, records show. According to the Department of Corrections, he is scheduled to complete probation in 2012.

A woman who answered the door at Smith's address and identified herself as his mother said, "I have no comment other than that I'm concerned for my son's recovery." She would not give her name and referred all questions to Smith's attorney.

The Givenses were married in 1998, according to court records. Each had been married before and had their own children.

Though divorced, Charles Givens and his ex-wife, Ernestine Givens, grew to be close friends over the years. Ernestine said she also became friends with Dione Givens, whom Charles Givens met while both worked at Collection Connection, a thrift store in Tampa.

"He needed someone, she needed someone. It was just a natural thing," Ernestine Givens said.

Charles and Dione Givens often attended the ex-wife's family's parties and picnics. Charles loved to dance, and Dione was always ready to strike up a conversation, said Ernestine Givens' sister, Lillie Mingo, 57.

"She was just like one of the family, too," Mingo said of Dione. "They were just fun-loving people."

Charles Givens worked for years as a Tampa garbage collector, but his life's calling was to preach, Mingo said. He didn't preach at one specific church, instead traveling around with fellow Christian ministers.

When Mingo and her husband renewed their vows seven years ago, Givens did the honors.

Mingo's brother, David Harris Sr., 59, said Givens was different in his youth. "He was wild," Harris said with a laugh, but that changed when he found God.

He was always ready with advice, telling Harris "to keep my head up, that all my help would come from the Lord above."

Harris said Givens also loved to read — the Bible, of course, but also mysteries and dramas.

"You know how some people have a shelf full of shoes? He had a shelf full of novels," Harris said.

He also liked sports, and saw the Mets play any time they came to town.

Cummings, Charles Givens' other passenger, worked at the Oakwood Park Su Casa home with Dione Givens for years, said Cummings' sister, Veronica Cheaves, who lives in Palmetto.

"Oh, she was a sweet person, a hard worker," Cheaves, 62, said of her sister. "Everybody loved her."

Cheaves remembered Cummings talking about how nice it was for her co-worker and the co-worker's husband to give her rides.

Mingo, the sister-in-law, said Mr. and Mrs. Givens were always driving around together, "and they died right there together."

"They loved one another so much," she said.

Times news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com.

Couple killed in east Tampa crash 'loved one another so much' 09/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 11:53pm]
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