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Two retirees on motorcycle killed in crash near Ruskin

Thomas Steven Colson, 62, of Tampa was killed along with his passenger as they rode on his Big Dog chopper Friday on U.S. 41.

Family photo

Thomas Steven Colson, 62, of Tampa was killed along with his passenger as they rode on his Big Dog chopper Friday on U.S. 41.

TAMPA — Galilee Wells Howard was 69 but just started riding motorcycles a year ago. She retired from running a family well-drilling business when a new friend, Thomas Steven Colson, invited her to hop on the back of his chopper.

Colson, a lifelong biker, loved having someone to share his adventures. He and Howard were parents to grown children, so they could spend the hours together as they pleased. They loved old music and nights out letting loose.

Driving home from a motorcycle club about 11:30 p.m. Friday, the two aboard his chopper were killed when a car turned in front of them, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Neither wore a helmet.

The driver of the car left the scene, but was later found when her husband called authorities.

The patrol is still investigating the crash, and no charges have been filed.

Troopers said Colson, 62, of Tampa was driving his 2009 Big Dog chopper south on U.S. 41 when a 1988 Buick Park Avenue traveling north on the highway turned left onto Universal Drive south of Ruskin and into its path.

Both Colson and passenger Howard were thrown onto the roadway and died at the scene.

The driver of the car, identified as Susanne Marie Meyers, 52, of Ruskin fled but was located by troopers at her home on nearby Metro Drive.

Meyers' husband phoned authorities to inform them of her whereabouts, the patrol said. He could not be reached for comment Saturday. The car she was driving sustained $2,000 worth of damage, the patrol estimated.

"She ran. What a coward," said Stephanie Volkmar, Colson's daughter. "I hope justice is served."

Records show Meyers was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in January 2010 in Hillsborough County with a blood-alcohol level over 0.15. At 0.8 percent, a driver is considered impaired in Florida.

Howard's family gathered Saturday at her home on Falkenburg Road to remember the woman they describe as caring, fun and loyal. "There are definitely bad feelings, but no one is really angry right now because we're all still in shock," said James Pugh, Galilee Howard's son-in-law.

After Howard's husband died in 2001, the business they owned together, H&H Well Drilling, was passed onto their son, David.

Howard kept busy spending time with her grandchildren, gardening and riding with Colson.

"She liked being out, she enjoyed people and having a good time," Pugh said.

Faith was also a big part of Howard's life. She was a fan of television evangelists and attended services at Landmark Baptist Church in Seffner. Troopers found a small paper with an image of Jesus on it in her belongings.

Colson, a divorced father of two, worked part time as a mechanic after retiring from a career with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He went by the name Steve, and his children were his life, said his daughter. His next biggest love was his bike.

"He loved his chopper," Volkmar said. "It was his baby. When he rode, he felt free."

Volkmar couldn't bring herself to go see the mangled bike following Friday's crash.

Colson's nephew had died in a motorcycle crash not long ago, she said, adding that her father knew the risks of riding.

Colson was looking forward to the birth of his first grandson this August. He already was grandfather to a 14-month-old girl. He recently taught the little girl to point up at the sky whenever he asked, "Where are the birds?"

Now, they will teach her that grandpa is up there, too, riding with Galilee, Volkmar said.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or swhitman@sptimes.com.

Two retirees on motorcycle killed in crash near Ruskin 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 9:24pm]
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