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Pasco grove owner killed when car hits his bicycle from behind

Published May 31, 2016

DADE CITY — Joseph Neal Hancock had thousands of miles under his belt.

The hobby cyclist had ridden to North Carolina and would ride to Steinhatchee for scalloping trips while his family drove, said long-time friend Jim Pavek.

But he was only about three miles from his Dade City home when he was hit from behind by a car Saturday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Hancock, 57, died on the road.

"Joe Hancock was a great guy," said Pavek, who used to own San Antonio Cyclery and had been friends with Hancock since the 1980s. "Very dedicated to his family. Hard worker. The big tragedy is his wife and his kids, and he's been taken from them and it's not fair."

They didn't just lose a husband and father, Pavek said. They also lost a baseball coach. And a business partner. Hancock ran Hancock Groves citrus farm with his family. Located on the corner of Blanton Road and Lake Iola Road, it's known for being one of the few citrus farms around that allows customers to pick their own fruit from the trees.

Hancock was riding his bike — a German-made Focus, Pavek said — east around 8:40 a.m. in the eastbound lane of Lake Iola Road, just west of Nolan Road, troopers said.

Desiree Michelle Nathe, 20, also of Dade City, was also headed east on Lake Iola, driving a 2011 Hyundai Accent. She crested a hill and didn't see Hancock, troopers said, hitting him from behind.

Hancock, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown from the bicycle onto the Hyundai then landed on the shoulder of the road.

"I don't know how the accident happened, I just wish it hadn't," Pavek said.

Members of the Hancock family declined to comment for the story.

Pavek said he also knows Nathe, a former star high-jumper for Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill. His children went to day care with her, he said, and they now all attend the same church.

"I'm sure Desiree is devastated by this, too," Pavek said by phone Monday. "My heart goes out to her and her family, as it does to the Hancocks. Sometimes life is very hard to understand."

The accident highlights an ongoing problem in the Dade City and San Antonio area, Pavek said. The roads are narrow, curvy and hilly, which make them attractive to cyclists, he said. But that's also what makes them dangerous.

"I'm hoping this tragedy could help bring some light to an issue that's been ignored for a long time," Pavek said.

Staff writer Dan DeWitt contributed to this report. Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

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