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Pinellas woman endures second tragedy in which driver accused of DUI

TREASURE ISLAND — Tina Pellegrino has been through something like this before.

On Sunday, police say, she was crossing the street with her fi­ance when a drunken driver struck her sweetheart, delivering a blow that soon claimed his life.

David Happeney, 49, a Pinellas Park father of three, was pronounced dead at Palms of Pasadena Hospital shortly after the 10 p.m. crash on Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island.

The couple were out celebrating Pellegrino's 43rd birthday, said Happeney's mother, Marjorie Happeney, 75.

The incident occurred nine years after Pellegrino's then 17-year-old daughter, Angela Bernardini, survived a 56-day coma after police said a drunken driver collided with her vehicle in Clearwater. Her recovery was long and slow.

The drunken driver who struck Bernardini was sentenced to five years in prison.

Pellegrino — who has three DUIs of her own, most recently in 2006 — could not be reached Monday.

"She'll probably have nightmares for a long time," Happeney said of Pellegrino's experience. "It's hard to imagine."

Though Happeney is grief-stricken after losing her youngest child, the Circleville, Ohio, woman said she is praying for the person police say is responsible.

Treasure Island police arrested Ann Marie Nunn, 39, of 5454 27th St. S in St. Petersburg, on a DUI manslaughter charge. Police reported her blood-alcohol count was 0.263, more than three times the level at which the law presumes a driver is impaired. Nunn was driving home from a bar, police say, south on Gulf Boulevard when she hit Happeney near 106th Avenue. She had been drinking and taking prescription medications prior to the crash, according to a police report.

"I feel bad for her, too," Marjorie Happeney said. "I'm sure she didn't intend to hurt him. … I don't think she did anything intentionally — carelessly, maybe. But not intentionally."

David Happeney was not in a crosswalk when he was hit; neither were eight of 14 other pedestrians killed on Gulf Boulevard or Blind Pass Road since 2000. His death is the sixth of the deaths in which police said the driver who hit the pedestrian was drunk.

Happeney had moved to the Tampa Bay area four years ago after living most of his life in Circleville. He had lost his job as a maintenance supervisor and came to Florida with his family to explore job opportunities. He quickly fell for the beach and warm climate. "You know," he told his mother as they stood on the beach together, "I think I could learn to like this."

He worked for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Clearwater, his mother said. He loved NASCAR and cowboy boots.

Three years ago, he introduced the family to Pellegrino. About a year ago, he told everyone he intended to marry her. "He just said he loved her and that was enough by me," Happeney said.

On Sunday, her son and Pellegrino had rented a hotel room on Treasure Island. They had been celebrating Pellegrino's birthday and were headed back to the hotel when he was hit.

Pellegrino called Happeney's Circleville family about 10:20 p.m. Shortly afterward, they learned he was gone.

"Last night, I kept thinking, this is just a nightmare and I'll wake up," Happeney said. "But it wasn't."

Besides his fiancee and mother, David Happeney leaves behind his father, Clarence, three daughters, ages 11, 13 and 22, a sister and a brother.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report.

Pinellas woman endures second tragedy in which driver accused of DUI 09/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 6:01pm]
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