TARPON SPRINGS — Investigators believe the vehicle found submerged in a retention pond off U.S. 19 following a fatal traffic crash that downed power lines was racing with another car early Saturday, police said Tuesday.
Police also disclosed the names of the two men killed in the crash: Nicholas Ray Osborn, 37, and Marco S. Valez, 39, of Clearwater.
According to police, about 3 a.m. on Saturday an officer heard a loud "boom" and rushed to the area of U.S. 19 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The officer found power lines scattered on the road.
An employee from a nearby McDonald's approached the officer and said that he had seen a white car driving north on U.S. 19. He had also seen another car fly through the air, over a 6-foot fence and into a retention pond on the east side of the road.
After power to the area was turned off, investigators found Osborn, who police say was the driver, near one of the fallen poles with power lines on his body. He was pronounced dead.
A dive team later located Valez's body buckled into the passenger seat of the submerged 1998 two-door silver Mercedes, police said.
While police investigated, two other cars struck the power lines on the ground. The driver of an SUV was taken to a hospital, but was treated and released. The other driver and passengers were not hurt, police said.
The accident shut down the southbound lanes of U.S. 19 for hours.
Investigators believe the white car seen heading north on U.S. 19 was racing the Mercedes, according to witness accounts. More details about the vehicle were not available Tuesday.
Osborn's and Valez's families could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Osborn's family lives in Pennsylvania, and it was unclear Tuesday where Osborn was living at the time of the accident.
In Florida, the men do not have criminal records, state records show.
Anyone with information on the traffic crash is asked to call Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Frank Ruggiero at (727)938-2849.
Times staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. On Twitter: @lauracmorel.