St. Petersburg fatal boating crash a puzzle; investigation could take six weeks

ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities are still piecing together the cause of a Friday night boating crash that killed a 17-year-old girl.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said alcohol may have been a factor in the accident but wouldn't elaborate. The investigation could take four to six weeks to complete, spokesman Gary Morse said.

Paige Alyssa Davison, a St. Petersburg High School senior, died in the crash. She was aboard a powerboat with four other teens who were injured in the accident.

About 11:30, the boat, a 22-foot Hydra-Sports center-console runabout, entered Bayboro Harbor from the north "at a high rate of speed," officials said.

It smashed into a seawall on the harbor's north side, near Albert Whitted Airport and across from the Coast Guard station, the agency said. The boat managed to get to the Harborage Marina on Second Street S, according to St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.

The four teens were rushed to hospitals, two under trauma alerts and two with serious injuries.

David L. West, 18, was operating the boat at the time of the crash, the agency said.

"This family really doesn't have any comment," said a man who answered the phone at West's home Sunday.

Paige's friends streamed into her family home Sunday morning. They hugged Paige's mother and clung to each other, and sobbed.

Some wore T-shirts they had made with pictures of Paige on them.

"You are loved and will never be forgotten," one said.

Paige's father, Jeff Davison, said he had a false sense of security when his daughter went out Friday.

"She went fishing before with these people and everything was fine," said Davison, 47, shaking his head.

Paige's aunt, Patty Nardozzi, said one of the girls on the boat, Kelli Delange, visited the Davisons' home Saturday. She was using crutches, Nardozzi said.

Rachel Ryan, also a senior and a longtime friend of Paige's, said Kelli bruised her legs and hurt her back in the crash.

Another girl aboard the boat, Kelsey Bedinghaus, also a St. Petersburg High student, was being treated at Bayfront Medical Center on Sunday.

"She's okay," said her grandfather William Bedinghaus, who was reached at his home.

Several teens crowded into Kelsey's room at the hospital. Her father, Bill Bedinghaus, who was there, said he didn't know enough about the situation to comment.

The other teen aboard the boat was Trey Sorenson, also a student at St. Petersburg High.

Nardozzi said the family has made tentative service plans for Paige. Visitation is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the chapel of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. Services are planned for 2 p.m. Friday in the cathedral.

St. Petersburg fatal boating crash a puzzle; investigation could take six weeks 10/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 11:43pm]

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