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Pickup flips, killing 1 and injuring 4

When its tire blew out on I-75 in Pasco County, the truck rolled, ejecting all the workers in it.

One man was killed and four others were seriously injured Tuesday afternoon after their truck blew a tire on Interstate 75 in central Pasco County and flipped several times, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The men were returning to their homes in Tampa after a day spreading cement when the right rear tire of the older-model Ford pickup blew out, FHP Sgt. Russell Kirk said.

All five men _ two of whom were sitting in the rusted iron cage that served as a makeshift truck bed _ were ejected as the pickup rolled at least twice before coming to rest right-side-up in the median, Kirk said.

A 19-year-old man, believed to have been one of the passengers in the truck bed, suffered severe head trauma and died later at Tampa General Hospital, the highway patrol said. His name had not been released late Tuesday because his family had not been notified.

The other four men, whose names also were not released, suffered serious internal injuries but were expected to survive, said Pasco County Fire/Rescue District Chief Tom Santell.

Northbound traffic on I-75 was backed up for an hour while debris was cleared and three helicopters picked up four of the men for transport to trauma centers at St. Joseph's Hospital and TGH. The fifth injured man was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

The accident happened at 3:45 p.m. about 2 miles south of State Road 52. The white pickup, a 1970s model, was heading south in the right lane when the tire blew out, Kirk said. "If they were doing more than 55 (mph), I'd be surprised," he said. "But they definitely weren't speeding."

Trucker Ernest Raines was driving north on the interstate and slammed on his brakes when he saw a cloud of dust in the median.

As the dust cleared and he saw the wreckage and the victims on the ground, Raines said he feared the worst.

"I was hoping they were okay," said Raines, 53, of Madison. "But it didn't look good."

One of the victims was partially pinned underneath the pickup, Raines said. He and several other motorists rushed to the truck and freed the man, he said.

"We all just pitched in and pulled the truck off him," he said. "That was the best we could do."

As rescue crews tended to the wounded, investigators documented the wreckage.

The bed of the truck had torn free of the chassis when the pickup rolled, scattering a water cooler, power sander, shovels, rubber boots and other remnants of a day on the job site.

Kirk said the three men riding in the passenger cabin were not wearing seat belts. "I'm sure if they had their seat belts on," he said, "they wouldn't have been ejected."