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4 hurt in Clearwater collision

Four people were seriously injured Wednesday when a van and a car collided head-on on McMullen-Booth Road. Officials said two children, ages 2 and 6, appeared to have suffered the worst injuries. The children and the driver of the car were taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

The children's mother, Paula Ricca of Safety Harbor, who was driving the van, was taken by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital.

Sheriff's officials late Wednesday could not provide the names of the children, both boys. Bayfront would not release the boys' conditions or names because their parents had not given consent to do so, a nursing supervisor said. The boys were to be transferred to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, the spokeswoman said.

Details were sketchy, but Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Greg Tita said the accident occurred when the southbound van veered into the northbound lane near Marlo Road. The van collided head-on with a Plymouth Volare, he said.

The Volare then was struck by another van driven by Chris Flanders of Palm Harbor, Tita said.

Neither Flanders nor his 17-month-old son, Chris, were injured.

The driver of the Volare, identified as George N. Bettis Jr., was in critical condition late Wednesday, a nursing supervisor said.

No charges had been filed late Wednesday, sheriff's officials said.

Neighbors said the city should install a traffic light to slow down traffic on the two-lane road.

"They call this the McMullen-Booth Speedway," said Wayne Hoffman, 42.

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