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Afternoon errand ends tragically at Scotty's

Warren Mead and Kermit Altenburg both had trips planned early Tuesday afternoon to Scotty's on U.S. 19.

But as one man walked into the store and the other drove off, a split-second accident in the parking lot left Mead dead and Altenburg badly shaken.

As Altenburg backed out of his parking space, he lost control of his white Dodge Caravan mini-van and struck Mead, who was walking behind the van on his way into Scotty's home improvement store, authorities said.

For some reason, the van accelerated backward, dragging Mead about 25 feet before backing over the curb in front of the store, which is on U.S. 19 north of State Road 52.

The van stopped only after crushing a display of small, potted plants and hitting a pile of wooden planks stacked against the store wall, said Trooper Del Barfield of the Florida Highway Patrol.

After stopping, Altenburg pulled forward and stopped a few feet in front of where Mead lay on the asphalt, Barfield said.

Mead, 74, of Bolton Avenue in Hudson, was pronounced dead at the scene. Altenburg, 73, of Arrowhead Drive in Bayonet Point, wasn't hurt.

Penny Brown, a Scotty's cashier, said she heard the van's tires squealing as she and another cashier looked up quickly from talking.

"He backed out of the parking spot and just kept going, like he thought it was in drive," Brown said. "I thought he was going to come through the store wall."

Brown said she saw the van pull forward again as she ran outside and found Mead lying still with severe head and chest injuries.

About 30 shoppers stared in disbelief, many with their hands over their open mouths, at the blood-stained white sheet covering the body lying in the fire lane between the yellow curb and the back of the van.

"Someone died?" a woman gasped, as she approached the store with a small boy sitting in the front of a shopping cart.

A paramedic rubbed Altenburg's arm as he sat in the front seat of his van, his head bowed over the steering wheel as he held his forehead.

"He's real torn up and upset," said Barfield, the trooper.

Mead's wife, Evelyn, was surprised to find troopers at her door Tuesday afternoon, Barfield said. Her husband hadn't been particularly late from running errands.

Barfield said no charges had been filed, but the investigation is continuing.