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Tampa police: Driver was drunk, speeding when he killed three in September

TAMPA — The driver who struck and killed a pastor, his wife and their friend more than five months ago was drunk and speeding, Tampa police said Monday.

Ernest Smith, 20, was travelling 84 mph when his Dodge Charger slammed into the couple's 1995 Buick Century at 34th Street and Chelsea Avenue last September, police said.

The husband and wife in the front seat, Walter and Dione Givens, died at the scene. A passenger in the back seat, Helen Cummings, was ejected and later died at a hospital.

Smith was charged Monday afternoon with three counts of DUI manslaughter and three counts of vehicular homicide. Police arrested him at his home, 3201 E 22nd Ave., on a warrant.

Blood tests taken at the hospital showed Smith was intoxicated, police said. And a data recorder from his car showed he was speeding.

Walter Givens, 67, was a preacher who had just picked up his 55-year-old wife from her job at a nursing home. They were giving a ride to Dione Givens' co-worker, 58-year-old Cummings.

They were only a few blocks from home.

Immediately following the crash, neighbors gathered at the scene to lament the intersection they deemed dangerous because of a building on the northeast corner that makes it hard for westbound drivers to see oncoming traffic.

But police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the building didn't play a role in the crash because the victims' car was heading east.

Records show Smith was cited twice in 2009 for speeding. He also has been on felony probation since March for a 2009 conviction of aggravated assault with a weapon, state records show. He was arrested a second time about a year and a half ago in Temple Terrace on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, records show.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Tampa police: Driver was drunk, speeding when he killed three in September 02/07/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 11:35pm]
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