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CAR RAMS DANCE ACADEMY

A 76-year-old woman lost control of her car after making a U-turn on U.S. 41 on Sunday.

Had it been any other Sunday, Susan Sisk could have been dead.

Instead, the business owner stood, ponytailed and sweaty, inside Dance and Gymnastics Academy of Tampa, staring at the spot where the pewter Chevrolet Lumina could have plowed into her.

On a usual Sunday at 1:35 p.m., Sisk most likely would have been serving children drinks from the refrigerator just inside the front window, which fronts U.S. 41 just north of State Road 54.

"This is the only Sunday of the year that I didn't have a birthday party," Sisk said at 2:45 p.m., watching firefighters crunch over the shattered window to examine the bent beam that used to hold up the front wall. "It was just sheer luck."

Bicyclists, walkers and drivers slowed at the sight of two fire trucks, a tow truck and the Florida Highway Patrol trooper's car parked outside the business, lights flashing. They gawked at the Lumina with its front end buried up to its windshield into the building. A couple ventured forward to inquire what had happened.

Trooper John Sessa explained as best he could.

According to all accounts, Sessa said, 76-year-old Kyparissia Politis was driving north on U.S. 41, headed home from church about 1:35 p.m. She needed to make a U-turn when everything went wrong.

"She did a 360 and came back across the median, crossed three lanes of traffic, jumped this concrete (curb) and went straight into the building," Sessa said. "I've never worked one like this, and I've been doing it six years."

No one got hurt, though Sessa guessed the car suffered about $5,000 in damages and the building, about $10,000. Building inspectors were on their way to give a more detailed assessment.

Politis and her husband refused medical attention, so deputies took them home.

"I just lost control," Politis said before departing.

Sisk, meanwhile, was left with the mess.

She fretted about what would happen to her and her business, which she has owned for 20 years. She's accustomed to working seven days a week, and now it looks like her studio will be closed for a while. But at least she's alive to make decisions, Sisk noted.

"I don't know who their God is," she said of the Politises. "But my God was looking out for me."

Times photographer Lance Aram Rothstein contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.

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