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Wreck on U.S. 19 kills two intent on changing their lives

Heading up to his mother's home Tuesday afternoon, 18-year-old Justin Magin had a fresh outlook on life. In three days he would finish his classes at the alternative school where he had enrolled, his father said, after getting caught with marijuana.

"He was very vocal about turning his life around," said Ed Isolani, executive director of the school, the New Port Richey Marine Institute. "He felt like he was on the right track, and now his enthusiasm for life has been taken away from him."

Magin was killed in a wreck on U.S. 19 in Hudson on Tuesday afternoon when the 2001 Mercury sedan in which he was a passenger was broadsided by a speeding compact car, the Florida Highway Patrol said. A passenger in that car, a Ford Escort, 38-year-old Todd Perkins, also was killed.

Four other men suffered serious injuries in the crash and remained hospitalized Wednesday. All six men involved in the incident were from Hudson.

Like Magin, Perkins also was changing his ways, his stepmother said Wednesday.

"He'd had a tough life," said Claire Perkins. "But he called me at Christmas and said he was turning his life around. He said he was going to quit drinking."

Claire Perkins said her stepson, a stucco worker, was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident several years ago in Pinellas County. His difficult recovery was made more painful by the recent deaths of his mother and father, Claire Perkins said.

"He had a heart of gold," she said. "He'd do anything to help you out."

The accident occurred as Perkins and three other men were heading north in the left lane of U.S. 19 in a tan 1991 Ford Escort. The driver, 36-year-old Jeffrey Allen Patton, was exceeding the speed limit, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The 18-year-old driver of the Mercury, James Robert Bishop Jr., was making a U-turn to start going north and did not see the oncoming Escort, the patrol said. The Mercury was hit on the passenger side, where Magin was sitting.

Bishop was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he remained in critical condition Wednesday.

The three survivors in the Escort also were flown to area hospitals. Tim Peterson, 38, was in critical condition late Wednesday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Charles Nicholson, 18, also was taken to St. Joseph's, where he was fair condition. Patton, the driver, was in serious condition at Bayfront.

The Florida Highway Patrol indicated that the four men in the Escort were not wearing seat belts, while the two teens in the Mercury were.

"He was a good kid with lots of friends," said Magin's father, Charles Magin. "He wanted to be a truck driver like me."