Alicia Benischek needed a smoke to calm her nerves during her father's funeral. When she stepped outside Heinz Funeral Home for a cigarette, she heard a loud noise and looked up to see a Dodge Durango strike a man.
The man was trying to cross busy State Road 44 near Independence Highway, she said, and the impact of the sport utility vehicle sent him into the air.
"I heard the screeching brakes," she said as she watched emergency crews clear the road.
The pedestrian, Joseph Abramowitz, 84, of Inverness crossed the westbound lanes of traffic near the Colortyme Tile store without a problem, Citrus County sheriff's deputies said. He paused on the median and then darted across the road into the path of the Durango driven by Robin Merkin Hylander, 31, of Inverness, said Citrus County sheriff's Cpl. Michael Junker.
Hylander swerved but couldn't turn fast enough to avoid Abramowitz, Junker said. No criminal charges will be filed, he said. Abramowitz was transported to Tampa General Hospital by helicopter about 2 p.m. A hospital spokesman said Abramowitz was in critical condition Thursday night.
"It was just an unfortunate accident," Junker said.
Jeff Warner saw the accident from the other side of the street. The Coast to Coast Electric worker was perched on a ladder, fixing a business sign when he, too, heard the squeal of brakes and saw Abramowitz in the road near the funeral home.
Abramowitz was the second pedestrian hit by a car in Citrus County in 24 hours. Thomas J. Naughton, 72, of Crystal River died Wednesday night after he was struck by a 1986 cream-colored Chrysler when Naughton tried to cross U.S. 19 near W McKinley Street, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.
The driver of the car was Mary White, 74, of Homosassa. White was driving south on U.S. 19 in the inside lane and hit Naughton when he tried to cross the southbound lanes of the dark stretch of U.S. 19 about 8:25 p.m. No charges were filed, police said.
Jon Schuler, who lives on McKinley near U.S. 19 was on his way to Home Depot when he saw a body on the road, he said.
Schuler said he didn't know Naughton. He said he felt Naughton's pulse and tried to give the man CPR, but the crowd of onlookers gathered near Naughton pulled him back, worried Naughton's neck might be broken. Minutes later, Naughton was pronounced dead at the scene.
Schuler said the highway is too dark for motorists to see pedestrians. He often sees accidents there, he said.
"I've been in an accident there myself," he said.
Wednesday's accident marks the second fatality this year at the intersection. Charles S. Hutchins, 62, of Homosassa died Jan. 3 after he was hit by a Jeep Cherokee.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.