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Brandon father killed when red-light runner suspected of drinking hits his car

The intersection of Adamo Drive and Falkenburg Road near Brandon was closed after a fatal crash Wednesday morning. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published Jan. 5, 2017

BRANDON — Dontae Hill had two loves: music and family.

The 25-year-old Armwood High School graduate, known as Big Don, took great pride in his rapping skills, recording his own songs and posting videos on YouTube. And he doted on his 1-year-old son, "Little Don," while looking forward to another child who is on the way.

"When he was little I used to always have him with me, take him to the park, take him shopping and let him get whatever he wanted, and that's what he was doing with his son," said Dontae Hill's father, Keith Hill.

Early Wednesday, Dontae Hill was killed in a crash at E Adamo Drive and Falkenburg Road that was so violent it split his Acura in half and closed the busy intersection for about eight hours. Investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol believe the man who slammed into Hill, 28-year-old Johnathan Honza, was driving under the influence.

Troopers saw signs of impairment and smelled alcohol on Honza, said spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins.

"If he wasn't sitting in the hospital, he'd be in jail right now," Gaskins said.

Hill was heading south on Falkenburg about 3:23 a.m. in a 2005 Acura TSX and entered the intersection to turn left onto Adamo, according to the highway patrol. Honza was driving a 2016 Chevrolet SS west in the center lane, ran a red light and slammed into the driver side of the Acura, troopers said.

The force of the collision sheared the Acura and threw debris that struck a Chevrolet sedan stopped at the red light on Adamo. None of the five occupants of that car were injured.

Hill died at Tampa General Hospital, where he was born. Honza, of Brandon, was treated in the same hospital for serious injuries.

Troopers drew blood from Honza and were awaiting results Wednesday, Gaskins said.

Records show Honza has a Florida identification card but no Florida driver's license. It was unclear Wednesday if he had a valid driver's license from another state or was driving illegally.

Honza has faced accusations of DUI before.

According to a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office arrest report, Honza drove onto a curb near the intersection of U.S. 301 and Gibsonton Drive about 4 a.m. one night in November 2013 and got stuck. A deputy wrote that Honza had slurred speech and watery eyes and refused to perform field sobriety exercises or provide a blood sample.

The charge was reduced to reckless driving and Honza was sentenced to probation, court records show.

Honza has been arrested on DUI charges twice in Springfield, Oregon — one in July 2008 and another in May 2009, Springfield Police said. Because Honza didn't attend either of those court hearings there are two active warrants for his arrest in Springfield, as well as a third for a minor in possession of alcohol charge from the July 2008 arrest.

Angie Martin, a manager at the McDonald's restaurant on the southwest corner of the intersection, arrived for her shift at 4 a.m. Wednesday to find the usually busy intersection already closed.

"There were a whole lot of lights and half a car sitting in the grass out front," Martin said.

The intersection reopened about noon.

Keith Hill, Dontae's father, was getting ready for work when a trooper called to say his son had been injured and was in the hospital. He didn't think it was serious at first but then he got calls from other family members. He pulled up a news report on the crash and recognized his son's car in pieces.

By the time he arrived at the hospital, Dontae was gone. He still had a breathing tube in his mouth when hospital staff escorted Keith Hill and Dontae Hill's mother inside to confirm he was their son.

Dontae Hill lived in the Brandon area with his girlfriend and their son and worked in construction, Keith Hill said. The couple was expecting another child in about three weeks. The elder Hill figures his son was on his way home at the time of the crash but didn't know where he was coming from.

He also didn't know troopers suspected Honza was drinking.

"If he was under the influence," Hill said, "why couldn't he have called Uber or someone to take him home so this incident never would have never taken place?"

Times senior news researcher John Martin and staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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