CLEARWATER — Life hangs on the smallest of chances. Rarely is that clearer than in the wake of a fatal accident.
About 9:40 Tuesday night, Jason Hennis climbed onto the back of Harold Davis' Suzuki motorcycle and the two young men headed south on Keene Road.
In the other direction came Jimmy Dunn, 58, a man with a history of DUI arrests. He was driving on a newly reinstated license.
At Sunset Point Road, Dunn turned left and slammed into the motorcycle, police said, throwing the two riders. Then he left the scene, officials say. A witness followed Dunn's Oldsmobile and called police.
The crash killed Davis, 25, at the scene and sent Hennis, 24, to the hospital where he died soon after. Hennis was wearing a helmet but Davis was not.
On Wednesday, police arrested Dunn, of Clearwater, on two counts of DUI manslaughter. He was being held at the jail in lieu of $900,000 bail.
As the families of the two victims suffered through their first day of mourning, they thought of all the ways it might have turned out differently.
If only Davis hadn't recently traded his junker car for the bike. If only they'd taken a different route to see their friend who owned a barber shop nearby. If only someone had stopped them. Or stopped Dunn.
David Heid, Davis' father-in-law, thinks it all could have been different if only he'd hurried through his shopping trip at Walgreens.
Tuesday night, Heid went out to get a few last-minute school supplies for his grandson — Davis' son — who started school Wednesday. Then he went through the aisles looking for a toy for his grandchildren.
Had Heid come straight home, he would been there when Davis announced he was taking the motorcycle for a ride — Heid thinks he would have stopped him. He was planning to have a talk one of these days with Davis, who lived in Heid's house, about selling the bike, but the talk never happened.
Deedy Hennis, Jason's mother, was herself seriously injured in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. She thinks that's why her son was wearing a helmet. In the end, it didn't save his life, but she wonders what might have been if Dunn had been permanently stripped of his license after his third DUI.
"He took something this whole community is going to miss," Deedy Hennis said. "All because of his carelessness. ... My whole life has been my boys, that's all I got."
Dunn was arrested on DUI charges in 1987, 1989 and 1996, according to court records. After his third DUI, the court file shows a substance abuse evaluation that labeled him as an alcohol and cocaine addict. The evaluation said substance abuse resulted in "strained relationships with family, divorce, loss of employment" and the three DUIs.
The evaluation also said Dunn was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1993, he was treated as an outpatient at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines for the disorder and substance abuse, attending weekly sessions for a year. He stopped going to counseling when it interfered with his job, the evaluation said, and shortly afterward he landed his third DUI. His licensed was revoked for 10 years.
But that didn't stop Dunn from driving, according to court records. In July 2006, he was arrested on a charge of driving with a revoked license. He spent nine days in jail and was ordered to pay a fine. Then, on March 2, 2007, his license was reinstated.
None of the punishments feel like enough for the families of Davis and Hennis.
Hennis was born at Bayfront Medical Center and grew up in the area, graduating from Countryside High School in 2002, his mother said. He worked a year as a pharmaceutical assistant and went into the Navy.
He didn't finish boot camp, so he came back to Clearwater where he recently began a telemarketing job. He wanted to go back and get his degree as a pharmacist, his mother said.
"He was a good kid. Everyone who knew him loved him," Deedy Hennis said.
Harold Davis was born in Honduras but grew up in Clearwater. He was married and the father of three children: Andrew, 5, Leah, 3, and Sean, 19 months.
Davis was a hard worker and committed to everything he tried, his family said.
Take the first time he met Gina Heid, his future wife. Davis stopped in Burger King one night and noticed her behind the counter. The next day, he quit his job as a tire technician and signed up to work the night shift with her.
Davis proposed to her in front of the whole family two Thanksgivings ago. They were married Nov. 5, 2007.
Davis was supposed to take his final test for his GED next week, his father-in-law said. Monday would have been his 26th birthday.