TAMPA — The first time the driver or passenger of the 2003 Toyota SUV saw Arius Fayson, it was already too late.
Fayson, 31, of Tampa crashed his 2007 Honda motorcycle into the back of the SUV about 10:45 p.m. Saturday and died early Sunday, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
State troopers said he was speeding up Interstate 75 north near the Fletcher Avenue exit when he tried to get ahead of two parallel vehicles on the two-lane road. He did get ahead of them — by driving between them — but then slammed into a third vehicle, the SUV, as its driver was changing lanes.
"It was like an explosion," said Angela Delgado, 29, the SUV's passenger. "Glass was flying at us and at that point I just closed my eyes because I knew (my life) was over."
But Delgado and her fiance, Robert Hudson Jr., 36, survived their encounter with the speeding motorcyclist who struck the SUV with enough force to lodge the bike in its rear window.
The couple was on the way home to Lutz from a wedding in Orlando when Hudson began to move from the right to left lane on I-75.
"All of a sudden he said, 'Oh my God,' and then a bright flash," recalled Delgado, a reporter for the Tampa Tribune.
With her eyes closed, she said she felt the car easing off the road into the grass. "Thankfully Robert didn't slam on the brakes because there were so many other cars around us," she said.
Hudson jumped out of the car and called the police, yelling that he thought he had been involved in a fatal accident. Delgado remained in the car not knowing that several feet behind her, Fayson was still trapped between the motorcycle and the SUV.
"When the police arrived, I heard one of the witnesses scream, 'He's alive. He's alive. He's moving,'" Delgado said.
She got out of the car when the paramedics arrived. Fayson wore a helmet, she remembered, and she was thankful for that fact at the time.
"He was still alive when they placed him on the stretcher and took him away," Delgado said.
Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol said Fayson was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he died two hours later.
"His motorcycle was just a white light shooting at us," Delgado said. "Maybe if he had been going at a normal speed it would all be different."
Gaskins said it appeared the motorcyclist was at fault in the crash.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.