TARPON SPRINGS — A bizarre car crash killed two people, knocked out power lines and snarled traffic for hours along U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs on Saturday.
About 3 a.m., a Tarpon Springs police officer on foot patrol was checking a business at the Tarpon Towers when he heard a loud "boom," a report said. He rushed to the area of U.S. 19 near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and found live power lines on the road.
An employee from a nearby McDonald's approached and told the officer that, just after the boom, he had seen a white car driving north on U.S. 19 and another car fly through the air, over a 6-foot fence and into a retention pond on the east side of the road.
After power to the area was turned off, investigators found a man near one of the fallen poles with power lines on his body. He was pronounced dead. Police say it's unclear whether he was a pedestrian or was in the car that flew off the road.
A dive team later found the body of a man, possibly Hispanic, buckled into the passenger seat of the submerged car. No one was in the driver's seat.
Soon after the first crash, a pair of vehicles going south on U.S. 19 struck the downed power lines. The driver of an SUV, Marchelle L. Wallace, 27, was taken to a hospital. She was treated and released. The other driver was not injured.
The downed power lines forced the intersection to be closed for hours, causing extensive traffic backups in the area. Both directions of U.S. 19 were reopened by Saturday evening.
Authorities had not identified either of the people killed in the incident as of late Saturday, pending notification of next of kin.
Times researchers Carolyn Edds and Caryn Baird and staff writer Weston Phippen contributed to this report.