TAMPA — Richard Gonzmart was driving Thursday on Bayshore Boulevard when a white pickup truck suddenly veered into his lane at a reckless speed.
“As he sped away, I knew to stay away from him," Gonzmart wrote on his Facebook page. "At that moment, I felt that he was going to kill someone.”
Seconds later, Tampa police said the Ford F-150 struck a pedestrian walking on the Bayshore sidewalk and crashed into the balustrade. The pedestrian was fatally injured and thrown into the water. The driver was later arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
The crash took place at about 11:13 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Bayshore and W Julia Street. Police have released few other details.
Gonzmart, the restaurateur who oversees the Columbia Restaurant, Ulele and Goody Goody, took to Facebook on Friday and posted a detailed eyewitness account and a photo of the injured driver lying on the ground.
“All of a sudden, he lost control and rolled his truck. He was ejected,” Gonzmart wrote. “I came to an immediate stop. I ran over to see what I could do. He was lying on the grass unconscious ..."
The Facebook photo showed the injured driver laying on the sidewalk, the Pinch A Penny pool supply truck he was driving sat damaged in the background.
Police identified the driver as Benjamin Douglas Ehas, 31. He was hospitalized after Thursday’s crash, then arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
Witnesses estimated that the truck was doing 60 to 70 mph before the crash, police said. That was also Gonzmart’s estimate.
He wrote that an electronic radar speed sign showed he was driving the speed limit, 35 mph, when suddenly the pickup “almost cut me off as he sped between my car and the vehicle next to me.” It was also “swerving in the middle lane.”
Then, just four or five minutes after the crash, Gonzmart wrote, “a young lady screamed that there was a man in the water. Two young men jumped in to hold his head above water.”
The pedestrian was George Gage, 70, according to friends. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. While watching passersby try to save him in the water, Gonzmart realized the man’s shoes were still on the ground:
" ... I saw his running shows on the sidewalk maybe 10 to 15 feet away ... the truck’s impact knocked him right out of his shoes."
Gonzmart continued: "I read today that the truck driver has been arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. My heart and prayers goes out to the victim’s family who lost someone precious in such a senseless way.
Gonzmart ended with the lesson he learned from witnessing the crash:
“In one second all you know and love could be gone. I will no longer complain about my aches and pains, about traffic jams, or lack of sleep. And I will be sure to tell those close to me that I love them every day and say it often.”