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Mother killed in Selmon Expressway crash

TAMPA — The last time she talked to her daughter, Tammy Rosian was worried. It was 11:30 a.m., and her daughter, Jennifer O'Boyle, was about to jump in the shower, pack the car and head for Treasure Island.

Today is Jennifer's 25th birthday. She had plans to spend two days with her boyfriend. O'Boyle would take along her 4-year-old daughter, Summer Moll, who loved the water.

That worried Rosian, who was from Chicago and had heard there was a hurricane out there. "I told her to be careful of the hurricane so you don't get carried away by the waves," said Rosian, 46.

"She said, 'Don't worry, Mom, everything is going to be okay.' "

O'Boyle never made it. She died Wednesday in a wreck that left Summer severely injured, after a driver heading the wrong way hurtled into her path on the lower portion of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol said the two vehicles would have approached each other at a combined speed of nearly 130 mph — too fast for O'Boyle to get out of the way.

The resulting five-car pile-up closed part of the expressway for nearly four hours. Alcohol may have been involved, Gaskins said.

About 2 p.m., a Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle driven by 25-year-old Cheryl Maria Riemann of Ruskin drove onto the westbound part of the expressway, going east. Witnesses described traffic cones that had been knocked down. She may have entered near 78th Street, though that was not confirmed Wednesday night. She steered to the inside lane.

O'Boyle was also in the inside lane, in a blue-green Pontiac coupe, coming the opposite way.

The two cars struck head-on near milepost 12, not far from Palm River Road. The collision shredded the driver's side of the Pontiac, destroyed the front end of the Pilot and left a 100-foot trail of debris in the road.

The Pilot stopped on the inside shoulder. Riemann was listed in critical condition Wednesday night at Tampa General Hospital. Her family could not be reached.

The Pontiac spun to the outside shoulder, where a Honda minivan struck it again, and then a pickup truck and a BMW hit the minivan, the Highway Patrol said. Occupants of those three vehicles were not seriously injured.

An officer at the scene said there was a body in the Pontiac. Clothes, apparently from the trunk, littered the highway.

Summer was also listed in critical condition at TGH.

O'Boyle grew up in Chicago and came to the Brandon area four years ago. A single mother, she learned to shoulder responsibility early, her mother said.

O'Boyle had moved in with her mother and was working at a Cracker Barrel restaurant while attending Everest University, an online college, pursuing a certified nurse assistant degree.

O'Boyle was a carefree conversationalist and trusted people too easily, her mother said.

At age 4, Summer was just beginning to blossom with curiosity about the way the world worked. "She loved activity books, matching things and coloring things," Rosian said.

Especially, she loved water. Last Tuesday, her day off, O'Boyle took Summer to the YMCA water park. Most of the time, playing with her daughter was as much of a break as O'Boyle got, with days and evenings filled with work and school. She was a year and a half away from her degree.

"She was trying to give her daughter a better life," Rosian said.

This weekend was to be different. O'Boyle and Summer would stay with Mike Robinson, who recently moved to Treasure Island from Tampa. They would swim in the Gulf, perhaps take in a couple of movies. The couple had been seeing each other for five months.

Almost from the start, Robinson said, he entertained thoughts of asking O'Boyle, a woman he considered "beyond a great person," to marry him.

"I've been thinking about it for a long time," he said.

Tammy Rosian was on her way home from work after 5 p.m. when her son Zack called. Two state troopers had come to the door asking about Jennifer.

Rosian arrived and they told her that her daughter was dead, and her granddaughter clinging to life.

At her Brandon home, she clutched a tissue Wednesday evening while Zack, 17, and her other son Mike, 16, sat motionless beside her. Poring over photographs, she came across a shot of Summer in a Raggedy Ann costume and cried.

News that alcohol might have been involved seemed to dismay her. Asked what she would say to the other driver, she said, "I hope you had a good reason, because you took my only daughter away, and now you might have taken my granddaughter."

Robinson groped for words. Why, he asked, would anyone expect to be struck head-on at 2 p.m. on a weekday?

"You can't prevent somebody from driving on the wrong side of the road," he said. "What are you supposed to do?"

Times researcher John Martin and staff writers Justin George, Rebecca Catalanello and Jan Wesner contributed to this report.

Mother killed in Selmon Expressway crash 09/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:35am]
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