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Pedestrian struck, killed by pickup in Zephyrhills

An 83-year-old Zephyrhills woman often seen walking the city streets with a cart full of personal possessions was struck and killed by a passing truck Wednesday.

The accident happened about 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Julia Larsen, of 40034 Pretty Redbird Road in Zephyrhills, was walking east along County Road 54 about 100 yards east of 23rd Street. As usual, she had her cart full of bags and papers with her.

"She was walking on the side of the road, and I was able to get around her," said Robert Woodstock, a winter visitor from Michigan who was headed to Wal-Mart with his wife, Gail. He was driving westbound on CR 54.

Woodstock explained that the woman was far enough into the road that he swerved to avoid hitting her. Fortunately, Woodstock said, there were no cars coming in the other direction, so he was able to steer into the oncoming lane.

The driver of a pickup truck behind Woodstock evidently did not see Larsen because she was obscured by Woodstock's vehicle until the last moment. The driver of the truck, James L. Smith, 46, of Dade City, was too distraught after the accident to speak Wednesday. He sat quietly along the side of CR 54, just a few feet away from the accident scene as he waited to talk with troopers investigating the accident.

Smith was not charged.

Larsen's death is the sixth traffic fatality in the 12 days of 2005.

Her death came almost exactly a year after another 83-year-old woman was killed walking at the same intersection. On Jan. 8, 2004, 83-year-old Grace Henry was returning home from a trip to the Kash n' Karry grocery at about 7 p.m., after dark. She was struck and killed by a car as she tried to cross CR 54 at 23rd Street.

It was unclear where Larsen was coming from Wednesday. She was walking in the direction of her home, which was just a few blocks from the scene of the accident. Residents in the area often saw her walking in the area.

"I saw her almost every day," said Nicole Fournier, whose husband owns DJ's Auto Sales at the corner of CR 54 and 23rd Street. "As a matter of fact, I talked to her earlier today, asked her if she was having a good day. She seemed really happy this morning."