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Port Richey man clings to life after hit-and-run crash; suspect arrested

HUDSON — Pale gray twilight glowed between the blinds in Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point's Surgical Intensive Care Unit on Monday evening. Inside, Kayla Georgianna, 19, paced back and forth across the hall.

Her eyes were red from crying. Her hair hung in a loose bun. She pressed a cellphone to her ear.

"How could she do that?" Georgianna said into the receiver. "I hope she can't sleep. I hope that this eats her alive."

A few feet away, in Room 3604, Kayla's father, Anthony Georgianna, 46, lay motionless in the dark. Tubes came from his neck. His brain was swelling. Doctors said he might not make it through the night.

Kayla hung up the phone. She let out a shuddering sigh and went back into the family waiting room.

• • •

Michelle Georgianna had five mouths to feed that morning. She sent her husband out for breakfast ingredients: eggs, bread, milk. He got on his blue mountain bike and pedaled to the store about 9 a.m.

The family doesn't have a car. Anthony doesn't have a license. It was suspended a few times over the years, mostly for unpaid tickets, and records show he got in trouble a couple of times for driving without it. So he used his bike to get around.

Aldi Supermarket is about a mile and a half from the family's home in Port Richey. Michelle figured her husband would be gone a half-hour, tops.

Michelle, 44, stood in the driveway with her grandson Allen while they waited for the food. She said Allen loves riding on the bike with his grandfather.

"When Papi gets back," she told him, "we'll go for a ride."

They waved at a passing fire truck. Then at an ambulance.

An hour passed and Anthony hadn't come home.

"What's taking him so long?" Michelle wondered.

She decided to walk up to the supermarket.

Halfway there, on the corner of Fox Hollow Drive and Regency Park Boulevard, Pasco sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol cars congregated. On the side of the road, the blue mountain bike.

Authorities told her that her husband was headed south in the crosswalk on Regency Park, coming back home, when a teal or dark green Pontiac, possibly a Trans Am, slammed into him. He was thrown off the bike and hit the hood then the windshield.

The driver stopped, troopers said. Anthony lay in the road. The driver told witnesses she had to leave but would come back. She never did.

Anthony was rushed to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. A woman whose house was next to the crash scene drove Michelle there, too.

One by one, she called her children.

• • •

Down the hall from where Anthony lay unresponsive Monday night, the blended family of children and grandchildren gathered in the waiting room at the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. It's a small room with fluorescent lights and paintings of sailboats and flowers on the walls.

Family members said his brain swelling wasn't going down. The bleeding had mostly come from the back of his brain but had moved to the front. They braced for the worst.

Now off the phone, Kayla slumped into chair next to Michelle. They took turns rocking Kayla's 4-month-old daughter, Isabella. They monitored a wall-mounted TV that was tuned to Bay News 9 for the 6 o'clock news. They waited to see his face on the screen.

Between them sat several boxes of pizza sent over by Footprints Preschool, where Michelle works.

Michelle said her husband is a kind and funny man who likes helping people out. Her daughter, June Beveridge, 13, sat nearby and laughed when she thought of her father. She rapped on her own head with her knuckles when she said how hard-headed Anthony is.

"How am I supposed to explain it to these kids?" Michelle said. "They don't know what's going on."

Just then, Christopher Beveridge, 11, took a slice of pizza and walked over to his mother.

"Mom," he asked, "what happens if Dad does die?"

She paused before looking him in the eye.

"We're going to be very sad, Chris."

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Natalie Watson and staff writer Erin Sullivan contributed to this report. Alex Orlando can be reached at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

>>FAST FACTS

Arrest made in crash

Authorities on Tuesday afternoon arrested Krystle Lynn Latham, 27, the driver suspected in this hit-and-run. Witnesses from the crash saw her driving about 2 p.m. Tuesday near U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard in a 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix that looked like the one involved in the crash. Authorities said Latham had a 1-year-old girl with her Monday morning when she hit bicyclist Anthony Georgianna. Records show Latham's license had been suspended for the past year for failing to pay traffic tickets and child support. Latham, a licensed certified nursing assistant from Port Richey, is being charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury, failing to report a crash and careless driving.

Port Richey man clings to life after hit-and-run crash; suspect arrested 10/02/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 9:02pm]
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