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Motorcyclist's body found 15 hours after crash on I-375 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Just after midnight Thursday, officers were summoned to the Interstate 375 overpass in St. Petersburg.

A riderless motorcycle had been found in the road.

St. Petersburg police officers and Florida Highway Patrol troopers looked for a driver. They searched the dark with flashlights. They called hospitals. They tried to call the owner and his family members with no luck.

After more than two hours, they decided the motorcycle — which had some damage, but nothing major — likely had been abandoned. That's not altogether uncommon.

They left.

But 15 hours later, a pedestrian found an ugly scene 28 feet below the overpass — the body of a motorcyclist.

Troopers say Jose Antonio Pagan, 23, of St. Petersburg, was westbound on I-375 when his 2005 Honda motorcycle went on its left side and struck the north concrete barrier, vaulting him over the guardrail.

Pagan landed on the ground below, then skidded under the 8th Street on-ramp, where he couldn't be seen from above.

An autopsy will be performed, which could determine if Pagan died immediately after the crash or if he lived for some time.

Authorities are still trying to sort out more details about what caused the crash.

"It's kind of a tragic mystery at this point," said Sgt. Larry Kraus, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

When troopers were first called to the I-375 overpass at 12:16 a.m. Thursday, the motorcycle was on the side of the road.

Troopers said they believe someone moved the bike to the side prior to their arrival, though that person was not on scene when they got there.

Kraus said there was no evidence to suggest something serious had occurred.

The motorcycle had only minor damage and there was no obvious spot where it had hit the guardrail, except for a small scuff that investigators noticed after the body was found, Kraus said.

Kraus said troopers didn't drive down to check below the on-ramp because they had no reason to believe anyone had gone over.

"There was really no indication that he may have gone over the edge," he said.

The pedestrian later found Pagan, who was wearing dark clothes, in the fenced area underneath the highway.

"It would have been impossible for them to see him," Kraus said.

Troopers are still in the early stages of the investigation, Kraus said.

"We don't have an exact timeline," Kraus said. "During that time of the night, it (I-375) is really not that heavily traveled."

No witnesses to the crash have been found.

"It's very unfortunate and we wish things like this didn't happen," Kraus said. "This is the worst-case scenario."

Motorcyclist's body found 15 hours after crash on I-375 in St. Petersburg 06/25/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 25, 2010 8:33am]
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