Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Public safety

Texting suspected in crash that kills Tampa man near Gandy Bridge, troopers say

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ST. PETERSBURG — Texting while driving might be to blame for a crash that killed a man late Tuesday near the Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers identified the driver as Manuel Belisario Bonet Jr., 29, of Tampa. The crash remained under investigation, but a cellphone that troopers found in his car showed that he might have been sending a text message at the time, said Sgt. Rick Benton.

Bonet was driving west in a white Honda sedan about 8 p.m. on Gandy Boulevard, just west of the bridge, Benton said. The car was moving at a high rate of speed as it veered left onto a grass median strip.

Bonet turned right and over-corrected, Benton said, veering off the right side of the road and knocking over a wooden power pole before crashing into a set of palm trees outside a radio communications building.

Bonet, who was the only person in the car, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.

Texting while driving has been an issue that has caught the attention of some Florida lawmakers in recent years, but efforts to pass a law banning the practice have failed.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, this year introduced SB 52, which would allow law enforcement officers to tack on a $30 texting fine for drivers who are stopped for another violation. The bill would not apply to drivers reading a navigational device or traffic safety information, the proposal states.

Former House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, blocked the measure in his chamber after Detert introduced it last year, calling it a potential infringement on personal liberty. Other critics of Detert's proposal say it doesn't go far enough and call for a ban on all electronic devices while driving.

Detert has said that she plans to continued sponsoring the bill until it passes and that it has a better chance this year.

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