WESLEY CHAPEL — The three young men were trying to be chivalrous.
Three female friends had called for help about 3 a.m. after a flat tire left them stranded in the dark on Interstate 75. Nagy Ferguson, Kenneth Collins and Jerrick Vann jumped in Collins' Honda Civic and rode to the rescue.
They found the women, Erica Berry, 22, Mariya Peterman, 17, and Ferguson's girlfriend, 19-year-old Brittany Vaughn, stopped on the southbound side of the freeway, in the emergency lane. The men parked in front of the women's car, turned on the emergency blinkers and got to work changing the tire.
They never saw the BMW come barreling down the highway, right into their path.
"It was like a flash," Ferguson, 24, recalled Wednesday. "One minute we were changing a tire, the next minute we were lying in the street."
He said when he came to, he saw a man being led away in handcuffs.
The Florida Highway Patrol said the BMW was headed south on I-75 when the driver came up on the parked cars. He tried to change lanes but "failed to maintain control of his vehicle," the report said. The right front part of the BMW hit the rear left of the Civic. The impact pushed the Civic into the back of the Toyota. The six people who were standing between and around the stopped cars were then hit by the two cars.
All were taken to local hospitals.
"I have a broken clavicle, and I can't use my left arm," said Ferguson, who was recovering at home Wednesday afternoon. Collins, 19, Vann, 24, and Berry were also treated and released. Vaughn was listed in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital. Peterman was also at St. Joseph's in serious condition. Ferguson said all six were friends and had attended Wesley Chapel High School.
The driver of the BMW, John Hegarty, 47, of 30237 Glenham Court, Wesley Chapel, was arrested and taken to the Pasco County jail. The patrol said his blood-alcohol level was 0.10, just above the 0.08 level that Florida law presumes impairment. He faces charges of felony DUI with serious bodily injury, driving with a suspended license, failing to drive in a designated lane and violation of business purposes only.
Records show he was arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge in Texas in 1997. He served probation and completed a driving course.
Records show he had minor traffic offenses in Florida since 2005, including a seat belt violation and failing to display registration in 2009.
Researchers Natalie Watson and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.