THONOTOSASSA — The shattering boom brought people out of the Winn Dixie supermarket in the plaza at U.S. 301 N and E Fowler Avenue. Two smashed cars were lodged in the grass on both sides of Fowler's eastbound lanes.
One man was killed and four other people injured in the Saturday afternoon crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
But troopers weren't ready to blame either driver until the investigation was complete, said Patrol Sgt. Larry Kraus.
At 4:48 p.m., the driver of a 1994 Dodge Intrepid pulled out of the Winn Dixie lot at 9535 E Fowler Avenue to turn left onto Fowler and go west, Kraus said.
Seconds later, a 2009 Mercedes-Benz driven by 17-year-old Mahek Rahim of Thonotosassa crashed into the driver's side of the Dodge, causing it to spin onto the right side of Fowler's eastbound lanes, he said.
The Mercedes came to rest in the median, its front end crushed and deformed but with its windshield intact. The Dodge's entire driver's side was concave and crumpled, shattered glass and plastic car body pieces littering the road.
Joe Leggett was turning meat on his barbecue grill in the parking lot at Williams Road and Fowler when a friend told him that a black car was coming up Fowler really fast.
"As soon as I turned to look at the car, it hit the other one coming out the lot," Leggett said. "I mean it had to be going about 70 miles per hour."
Kraus said investigators have not determined the speeds each car was traveling, but alcohol involvement is suspected on the part of the Dodge driver, who was killed.
Rahim and her passenger, 14-year-old Natasha Rahim, were taken to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and treated for serious injuries. Both girls were wearing seat belts, Kraus said.
Troopers have not identified the Dodge driver or his front seat passenger, but said the man in the back seat, 48-year-old Donald Reed of Tampa, was taken to University Community Hospital in serious condition.
Leggett's wife, Chanda Leggett, said this was one of several accidents recently involving someone trying to exit the Winn Dixie parking lot onto Fowler.
"Every Saturday that we're up here somebody gets into a wreck it seems," she said. "We see this all the time."
No charges had been filed late Saturday. Kraus said the investigation was continuing.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.