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Suspect arrested in U.S. 19 crash that killed two

CLEARWATER — Police have arrested the man they say is responsible for an eight-vehicle crash that left two people dead on U.S. 19 last weekend.

Daniel Barga, 27, of 7121 Seventh Ave. N in St. Petersburg, was arrested Thursday on charges including driving without a valid driver's license causing death, driving without a valid driver's license causing serious injury and possession of Roxicodone.

Police say Barga was behind the wheel of a Chevy Avalanche when it crashed into several other vehicles about 6:30 p.m. Saturday on U.S. 19 near Nursery Road.

The Avalanche was speeding and changing lanes when it approached stopped traffic and struck three cars, including a Scion with two male passengers.

Those men, Richard Kelly of Odessa, whose age was unavailable, and Jancarlos Alberto Schaffer, 22, of Hillsborough County, were killed.

After hitting the Scion, the Avalanche triggered another three-vehicle crash before striking an eighth vehicle, police said. Seven other people were hospitalized.

Barga, who also was injured, initially told authorities he was the passenger of the vehicle, and was taken to a hospital. Police began looking for the driver, who they believed had fled on foot.

"Investigators developed information that he (Barga) was in fact the driver of the vehicle rather than the passenger," said Elizabeth Watts, the city's public safety spokeswoman.

They also found out that he'd borrowed the car from a friend, she said.

Barga was released from the hospital Wednesday and was taken into custody Thursday, Watts said. He was being held on $55,000 bail Thursday night.

Additional charges are pending forensic and lab tests, Watts said.

Barga has a criminal record that includes previous charges of driving with a suspended license and drug possession.

Court records list him as a habitual traffic offender. Since 1999, he has been cited or arrested on 22 traffic infractions — including multiple charges of speeding and running lights or stop signs.

At the time of the crash Saturday, he was out on bail awaiting trial on a charge of possession of Xanax, an antianxiety drug.

Suspect arrested in U.S. 19 crash that killed two 06/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 25, 2010 1:19pm]
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