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Axle falls from rock truck, strikes SUV, killing driver

The family had been lucky.

They all knew it. They had experienced few tragic losses.

But that changed Wednesday in a strange accident on U.S. 19.

Shortly after 6 a.m., Tim Cochran and his wife, Lynn, sat in their Jeep Cherokee on Meridian Boulevard, waiting to turn on U.S. 19. About that time, a large rock truck passed by, heading north on U.S. 19.

The truck lost two tires and an axle, which slammed into the driver's side of the Cochrans' car.

Lynn Cochran looked at her husband, who had been driving. She could tell he was hurt and she told him to hold on. She ran for help.

Just then, Lynn's sister happened to drive by. She called another relative, Frank Nystrom, a paramedic for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, who lives in the same neighborhood.

Paramedics put Lynn in an ambulance and prepared to fly her to a St. Petersburg hospital.

"Take care of Tim," she told them.

But Tim Cochran, a tall, soft-spoken man who liked to adopt stray cats and fish for bass, died at the scene, near his house in Hudson. He was 46.

"He was so even-tempered," said his sister-in-law Terry Agosta, 47. "Whenever you said something, he listened carefully. He always had an edge of wit."

Before Lynn Cochran was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, paramedics told her the news.

"Why did Tim have to die?" she asked.

Lynn Cochran, 51, was in fair condition on Wednesday night, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Relatives said she was alternating between anger and grief as she tried to cope with her husband's death.

"He was her rock," Agosta said. "They took care of each other."

The truck driver, James Edwards, 31, of Spring Hill apparently did not know he had lost his tires, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He continued to a rock mine in Brooksville, where he realized he had lost them. The axle and tires had been stored beneath the truck to be lowered for heavy loads. FHP troopers found out about his missing tires and connected him to the wreck. Charges could be filed against him. Edwards could not be reached on Wednesday.

"How could a wheel just fall off a truck?" Nystrom said. "I'm not passing blame. I know accidents happen. But that's not a normal occurrence. Either the truck had some mechanical failure, or it wasn't properly taken care of."

He and other family members stayed together Wednesday, sitting beside Lynn Cochran at the hospital, talking, wiping away tears, making sure the couple's cats were fed.

The couple's love story began later in life.

They met more than 10 years ago while working for the state Department of Children and Families in Pasco County. They were compatible opposites.

Lynn was organized and meticulous, rising before dawn to do laundry, folding her socks just so before placing them in a dresser drawer. Tim was quiet and laid back, a Frank Zappa fan who enjoyed dipping his fishing line in a nearby pond, waiting for the bass to bite. They smoothed each other out, relatives said.

The couple planned to retire in a few years, and already owned a piece of land in the Panhandle. But they also had purchased property in Hudson, close to their relatives, including Lynn's six brothers and sisters.

None of them could believe what happened Wednesday.

"You go through life and finally meet someone you're compatible with," Nystrom said. "Then a set of tires comes along and changes everything."