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Woman dies in accident after a dangerous ride

The 75-year-old swerved on and off State Road 52 as she crossed the county before colliding with a gray Buick.

A 75-year-old woman, swerving and careening all over State Road 52, forced drivers to dart off each side of the busy road as she crossed the county on Thursday afternoon, witnesses said.

Driving east, about 2} miles before she reached Ehren Cutoff, the woman swerved into the grass to pass Jim O'Neil's van on the right, O'Neil said.

He slammed on his brakes. She cut in front of him and collided with a gray Buick.

The two cars locked together, skidded off the road and down a grass embankment and flipped, he said.

The woman, identified by the Florida Highway Patrol as Betty Jane Chansler of 8023 Wet Rock Row, Hudson, was thrown from her car and killed. Pasco County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Chris Alland said she was dead when authorities arrived.

Her body lay next to her car, covered by a white sheet.

On the scene, Alland said the Ohio couple in the other car had minor injuries, but a news release issued Thursday night by the FHP described their injuries as "serious."

O'Neil, 29, and Al Smith, 41, were witnesses to the cross-county ride. They were riding in separate Harmon Autoglass vans, traveling to a job in Bushnell.

O'Neil said he knew something awful was going to happen.

After he passed the woman and her Dodge sedan near the Suncoast Parkway, he called the FHP on his cellular phone. He couldn't get a connection, he said.

Chansler continued to cross the center line and then swerve off the road into the grass.

When O'Neil reached U.S. 41, he got through to FHP and was transferred to dispatch. He was on hold when the woman darted around him and slammed into the car in front of him.

He hung up and dialed 911 shortly after 4 p.m.

He and Smith, who was two cars behind Chansler, pulled off the south side of SR 52, next to the accident scene.

"It was just a cloud of dust," Smith said.

The other car's driver, William Chandler, 67, climbed out of his upside-down car, they said. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's hospital, where he was in stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

His wife, 65-year-old Lois Chandler, was flown to St. Joseph's, where she was also in stable condition.

Chansler first turned onto SR 52 from Hays Road in west Pasco, the witnesses said.

She whipped around a van waiting in the median and forced a couple of cars off the road, Smith and O'Neil said.

"It looked like she was driving NASCAR," Smith said.

_ Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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