DUNEDIN — A longtime Indiana coroner vacationing here with family died Thursday after he lost control of his vehicle and drove into a ditch.
Authorities say a medical condition may have played a role in the crash that killed Martin Avolt, 70, coroner of Tippecanoe County in Indiana.
The crash happened at about 9 a.m. as Avolt drove west on Curlew Road with his 13-year-old grandson.
That's when the boy pointed out that Avolt — in the right-turn-only lane that turns into the Waterford Crossing subdivision at Challenger Drive — was in the wrong lane.
Authorities say Avolt abruptly swerved to the left and lost control — striking several traffic barriers, crossing into the eastbound lanes of Curlew and skidding off the road. The vehicle went through two chain link fences, down into a wooded ravine and came to rest against a tree.
Avolt's grandson was uninjured. He got out of the vehicle and flagged down deputies, who called for help. Avolt was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
News of Avolt's death quickly spread across the Internet on Thursday. Media reports say Avolt, who lived in Lafayette, Ind., was visiting his son, daughter-in-law and their grandchildren in Palm Harbor before school starts.
The Lafayette, Ind.-based Journal & Courier reported that Avolt had served eight years as deputy coroner, spent nearly 20 years in the top coroner job and was running unopposed for the office this November.
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh credited Avolt with revolutionizing his industry.
"What a wonderful, wonderful man he was," Murtaugh told the Journal & Courier. "He has absolutely led the charge in professionalizing the office of coroner for the state of Indiana."
The Pinellas Sheriff's Major Accident Investigation Team is continuing to investigate the incident.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.