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Neighbors say race caused crash

By 6:30 p.m. Thursday, dusk had already wrapped Otis Allen Road in a black shroud as Michelle Vasquez was folding laundry in her bedroom.

"I could hear two trucks speeding," she said. "Then I heard that loud bang. I thought they hit a mailbox. I ran to the window and looked."

What she saw were two trucks driving side-by-side on the two-lane road - both driving westbound, one of them in the eastbound lane - going well over the 45 mph speed limit.

What she heard was someone shouting to another person: "I think I just hit a person!"

Wayne W. Wood, 48, of 8046 Opal Lane, Zephyrhills, was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Florida Highway Patrol said he was hit by a 2004 GMC Sierra driven by Justin Collura, 18, of 7840 Shannon Lane, Zephyrhills.

Collura graduated last year from Zephyrhills High School and was a football standout for the Bulldogs.

The FHP said Collura was overtaking another vehicle as he hit Wood just east of 16th Street.

Trooper Michael Meier, who was investigating the crash, would not name the driver of the second vehicle, a red Ford Ranger, because he said the second driver was not involved.

"(The second driver) said he knew (Collura), and he stayed and called 911 and helped us," said Larry Coggins, FHP's spokesman. Collura also stayed at the scene.

But neighbors, who did not know either driver or Wood, say they believed the two trucks were racing.

That straight stretch of Otis Allen Road is a favorite haunt for impromptu racing, said Jose Vasquez, who lives right outside the spot where the trucks screeched to a halt, some 700 feet from where Wood lay dead.

Vasquez, a former firefighter, said he ran out to help and found a man with a badly mauled face and a clearly broken neck.

"I felt him for a pulse. He was gone," he said. "I covered him up with my white tarp."

Wood and his wife, Sandra, were walking along the road on their way to Publix and Kmart when Wood was hit. Sandra Wood said the trucks may have had their headlights turned off.

"I was on the grass and when I turned around, I saw him laying in the grass," she said. "He had blood on him. It was dark and it happened so fast."

Coggins confirmed Friday that the impact of the crash was so hard that the driver's side window shattered, showering glass shards on Collura's left arm.

Collura had bandages on his arm Thursday night, although the FHP report said he was unhurt. Coggins said sometimes minor injuries are not noted in reports.

So far no charges have been filed, although the FHP is still investigating.

Staff researcher Carolyn Edds and writer Joey Knight contributed to this story. Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com.

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