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Crash kills two, closes westbound Hillsborough near Himes Avenue

Tampa police officers and Fire Department personnel cover a minivan with sheets to shield the two occupants who were killed in a crash with a pickup at Hillsborough and Habana avenues. The truck’s driver a ran red light, police say.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Tampa police officers and Fire Department personnel cover a minivan with sheets to shield the two occupants who were killed in a crash with a pickup at Hillsborough and Habana avenues. The truck’s driver a ran red light, police say.

TAMPA — A couple died and their grandchild was injured Friday afternoon when a pickup truck driver ran a red light and caused a five-vehicle pileup at a busy Tampa intersection, police said.

About 3 p.m., a truck going north on Habana Avenue hit a Dodge minivan that was traveling east on Hillsborough Avenue.

Police identified the couple as Webster Farnsworth, 63, and Nancy Farnsworth, 54, of Tampa. Their 3-year-old grandchild was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in critical condition but is expected to survive.

The truck driver, Eric D. McNeil, was taken to the hospital but appeared to be in good condition, police said.

Police are still investigating the crash, but said late Friday night that McNeil, 42, of W Hanna Avenue in Tampa, passed out while driving. His 2010 Dodge Ram truck hit two street signs before striking the Farnsworths' minivan. The truck then went airborne, landing on another vehicle with six people inside. None of those victims had life-threatening injuries, police said. Investigators haven't yet determined why McNeil lost consciousness before the crash.

Traffic on Hillsborough was shut down for about three hours while officers took measurements and studied evidence at the scene.

One witness, a security officer at the nearby Regions Bank, said he saw the truck barreling down a sidewalk at high speed before it barged into the intersection.

First, Herman Allen heard a loud crashing sound. He looked up and saw a white pickup that seemed to be going 70 or 80 mph down the Habana Avenue sidewalk. The driver had hit a sign, and the vehicle was going so fast that it whistled as it zoomed past, Allen said.

"Then — boom! — he hit the second sign," said Allen, 40. "And he went right out into traffic and hit the vehicle."

The minivan took the brunt of the force, Allen said, and the impact caused a chain-reaction of collisions. He said there were a lot of witnesses at the busy intersection Friday afternoon.

"People were crying, that's how emotional it was," Allen said. "I even got emotional. I don't know what's wrong with this guy, going 70 or 80 mph."

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 404-7766.

Crash kills two, closes westbound Hillsborough near Himes Avenue 10/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:14am]
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