Two truck drivers were injured, one critically, in a two-vehicle accident Thursday morning that stopped rush-hour traffic on U.S. 19 for nearly five hours.
A St. Petersburg Times delivery truck driver Jeffrey Nick VanOosting was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he was listed in critical condition.
The other injured driver, who works for BFI waste service, was taken by ambulance to Bayfront. Tina Lin Cramer, 30, was treated and released.
Pinellas Park police said the accident occurred about 6:30 a.m., when Cramer pulled the BFI truck across the southbound lanes on U.S. 19 toward the center turn lane, where she planned to turn north.
Cramer's truck didn't pull all the way into the turn lane; instead, police said, it blocked the southbound center and median lanes.
The Times delivery truck struck the other vehicle's left rear tires, totaling both vehicles. The Times truck's cab caught fire in the collision, and passers-by tried to help VanOosting before rescuers arrived.
Pinellas Park police investigator Ron McKenzie said the Times truck was traveling the speed limit, 55 mph, and the driver apparently did not see the BFI truck.
"One witness said she saw the brake lights the same time she saw the collision," McKenzie said.
Police said they would wait tofile charges against Cramer until Monday, so they can monitor VanOosting's medical condition.
McKenzie said Cramer, of 826 52nd Ave. N in St. Petersburg, likely will be charged with violating the right of way. VanOosting,37, of 1424 First St. N in St. Petersburg, was not at fault, police said.
Times officials thanked the bystanders and employees of nearby businesses who helped extinguish the fire in the company's truck.
"Our prayers and hopes are with him and his family," said Times public relations manager Anthea Penrose.
While the accident was investigated, only one or two lanes of traffic were allowed in the north-bound lanes.
All southbound traffic on U.S. 19 was diverted until shortly after 11 a.m., when all lanes were reopened.
_ Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.