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Driver in U.S. 19 crash on June 4 dies from injuries

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man critically hurt in an early morning wreck on U.S. 19 last week died of his injuries Tuesday afternoon, according to police.

George W. Sturm, 77, was hurt at 4:37 a.m. June 4 when his 1997 Ford Escort ran into a 2005 Freightliner semitrailer truck, police said.

Truck driver Robert S. Fernandez, 46, was trying to back the semi into the parking lot at Countryside Ford, 24825 U.S. 19 N, to make a delivery and had blocked all the highway's northbound lanes, police said.

Sturm was heading north on U.S. 19 and ran into the semi, apparently making no attempt to stop or go around the truck, officials said. The collision wedged the Escort almost completely under the truck.

Rescuers closed the northbound lanes of the highway for nearly two hours, extricated Sturm from the Escort and flew him to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he died.

Sturm was a registered sex offender, the result of his no contest plea eight years ago to a charge that he repeatedly had sex with a 15-year-old emotionally handicapped girl. Prosecutors said he gave the girl, who had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, $1 and $5 bills, school supplies and candy in exchange for sex.

Sturm was sentenced to five years in prison followed by 10 years' probation.

In the years before his arrest, Sturm had achieved a small degree of notoriety in Clearwater as a dance contest winner.

Sturm divorced in 1985 and afterward turned to dancing. He was known as the Twist King in the early 1990s at J.D. Penguin's nightclub.

At 60, Sturm would enter Saturday night dance contests with partners whose ages ranged from 23 to 44. At one point, he had won more than 15 of the competitions.

The dancing was a spare time activity for Sturm, who worked at the Home Shopping Network and in the St. Petersburg Times telemarketing department. More recently, he had a sports memoriabilia booth at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market and worked as a contract driver for a courier service.

Sturm loved sports and was a Catholic, according to his family. He is survived by three children, Gary Sturm and Cindi Carter, both of Dayton, Ohio, and Gregg Sturm of Buffalo, N.Y.; and two grandsons.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Driver in U.S. 19 crash on June 4 dies from injuries 06/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 11:46am]
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