LAND O'LAKES — Deputy Pete Federico stood on a recently blocked stretch of U.S. 41 Friday afternoon and looked toward the end of the skid marks.
"The Almighty was willing today," he said.
Federico was standing at foot 235 of the marks. The tracks led off the pavement, then sliced through the grass for 100 feet, arriving at a pulverized, red Mustang convertible.
Just before noon, FHP said, Gregory Dwayne Paulk was headed north on U.S. 41, about two miles south of State Road 52, when he hit the median then overcorrected, careening across two lanes. Trying to stay on the road, he cranked the steering wheel the other way, sending him flipping three or four times off the road's right shoulder, the FHP report said.
The car came to a final rest upright about 20 feet shy of a pond. The tracks showed a scarce miss of a telephone pole.
Paulk, 32, of Land O'Lakes, was ejected from the car. His jeans and blood-stained shirt lay atop a pile of shrapnel where he had been cut out of them before being airlifted to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in serious condition. Amid the wreckage was a Cincinnati Reds cap and a CD of rapper Rick Ross' mixtape Rich Forever.
Some lanes of U.S. 41 were temporarily closed as the helicopter landed and crews cleared away the debris.
Trooper Jose Lima reached into the car and pulled out an open can of Natural Ice.
Paulk wasn't wearing a seat belt, the report states. Troopers are still trying to determine whether alcohol played a role in the crash.