TAMPA — For Miguel Mercado, retirement was so close, he spoke about selling his Ybor City home and moving to the country with his wife.
But the 65-year-old city employee loved his public works job too much to let it go just yet.
"One more year," he'd tell his wife.
On Sunday, Mercado died wearing his reflector vest.
Tampa police say Mercado and co-worker Joseph Campbell, 36, were standing by their city truck, its lights flashing yellow in the center lane, as they stretched a cable across Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at 53rd Street, to count cars.
At 7:55 a.m., a pickup swerved into them, pinning Mercado between both trucks. He died instantly.
Campbell was thrown by the impact and rushed to Tampa General Hospital with a broken leg.
The driver of the pickup, 25-year-old Aaron Swanson, was not injured.
Judging by statements he made and what police found in his car, Swanson may have been under the influence of a controlled substance, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. She would not say what police had found in the car.
Hillsborough traffic records show that Swanson, of Riverview, was cited two years ago for careless driving and this year for speeding.
Police are awaiting results of blood tests to determine whether they will press charges, she said. That will take at least 30 days.
Hours after the crash, Mayor Pam Iorio waited for police to identify the victim so that she could contact the family. Iorio called the accident that killed Mercado tragic.
At their home on Sunday afternoon, Gloria Garcia Mercado reeled from the shock.
"He's not dead," the wife repeated.
"Mami," Linda Robles said as she held her sobbing mother, "It's true."
The Mercados had been married for four decades and raised four children. Inside their historic Ybor home, all of the renovations, from the crown molding to the kitchen island, were crafted by Miguel Mercado's hands.
But he longed to move on. He wanted to buy land somewhere more quiet so that he and his wife could spend the rest of their days the way he had spent his first in Puerto Rico — among pastures, surrounded by horses, in peace.
It would have been a much different existence from the way he spent his past 24 years, watching the cars zoom by. But work, his daughter said, was his passion.
When family members fretted about his safety, he'd smile and say he planned to live to be 100.
He hung onto that optimism even after a bad accident.
More than a decade ago, Mercado was working on a city street, elevated in a cherry-picker, when a car crashed into his vehicle, injuring his leg, arm and back.
"They said he wouldn't walk," Robles said. "He walked."
And he returned to work. Recently, he completed a road course, intended to keep him safe.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.