Saturday, February 17, 2018
Public safety

Retrieving mail was a daily ritual for Hernando man killed in weekend crash

BROOKSVILLE — Burl Batten insisted on making the potentially perilous trek across Sunshine Grove Road to get his mail each day.

His wife, Janet, was injured on the job years ago, and her mobility has worsened. Mr. Batten, 62, was legally blind, but it was difficult for a casual observer to tell, his wife said.

"He didn't want me crossing that road because I go too slow," she said. "He worked like a young man and got around like a young man."

On Saturday night, Mr. Batten made the trip one last time. About 9:45, he walked through the end of his long driveway and across the dark, straight stretch of road west of Brooksville. To get to his mailbox, Batten crossed two lanes and a center turn lane. On the way back, he was struck by a southbound Chevy Lumina driven by Peter Petrosky of Spring Hill.

Petrosky, 50, swerved to avoid a collision but hit Mr. Batten, who was thrown onto the west shoulder and died at the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Troopers were still investigating Monday and trying to determine if speed was a factor, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour.

Petrosky could not be reached for comment.

Janet Batten said she doesn't think her husband's eyesight was a factor. The couple's property sits just north of the stretch of Sunshine Grove that was widened recently from two lanes to four.

Mr. Batten was killed a couple of hundred feet south of a makeshift roadside memorial marking the spot where 20-year-old Kevin Giddens of Brooksville was hit and killed by a pickup while walking in the road in October. Mr. Batten met Giddens' brother one day and offered their fence as a place to hang a memorial, Janet said.

"They opened up that road and it became a racetrack out here," she said.

A native of Brooksville, Batten had a hereditary condition that limited his eyesight, worsened as he aged and was exacerbated by cataracts, his wife said. He could read the newspaper with strong eyeglasses and could see well enough to work full time sorting donations at the Goodwill store in Spring Hill.

The couple met in the late 1970s when they were working as police dispatchers in Pasco County and moved to Largo in the early 1980s when Janet got a job as a Treasure Island police officer. Mr. Batten worked as a clerk for several years at the Albertsons store on Walsingham Road.

The Battens moved to Hernando County in 2001, picking a nearly 5-acre parcel big enough to keep two horses. Mr. Batten tried to get the mailbox moved to the west side of the road, but the Postal Service said it couldn't be done, Janet said.

Mr. Batten started at Goodwill's Brooksville store in 2003 and moved to the Spring Hill store six years later. He was a courteous, hard-working employee whose one-liners, known as "Burlisms," made the day go by quicker, said store manager Barbara De Vito.

"He always had the right answer in someone's time of need," De Vito said. "No matter what it was, he could soothe you."

On Monday, employees placed a framed photo of Mr. Batten and some flowers on an easel just inside the store's front door.

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