On Thursday, January 9, witnesses spotted a Pinch a Penny pool supply truck driving erratically and speeding down Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, shortly before it struck jogger George Gage, 70.
Gage was thrown into the water, and bystanders jumped in to help, holding his head above water until rescuers arrived and were able to lift him out of the water. Gage was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died of his injuries.
“He was a faithful and active member of this church and he will be greatly missed,” Rev. Magrey deVega of Hyde Park United Methodist Church said in a statement. Friends remember Gage, a retired trust officer at Northern Trust, as a kind and generous person who often helped others in the community. He was married and had two children.
Benjamin Douglas Ehas, 31, of Tampa, was identified as the driver of the Pinch a Penny truck. He was treated for injuries at a local hospital, then arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Ehas admitted that he drank whiskey and smoked marijuana prior to the crash, according to the arrest report.
According to investigators, Ehas had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.234, almost three times the level at which Florida law presumes impairment, 0.08.
Witnesses told police that the Pinch a Penny truck appeared to be going 60 or 70 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, and was also swerving in and out of oncoming traffic right before the collision.
Unfortunately, Florida leads the country in pedestrian traffic accident deaths, and many of those involve an intoxicated driver. According to the Florida Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics, there were 43,899 DUI charges filed in 2017. Although the numbers have dropped off since 2012, intoxicated drivers continue to pose a danger to others, including pedestrians.
Commercial vehicles accidents that cause fatalities often involve large semi-trucks, but any commercial vehicle can cause an accident if the driver is impaired or distracted. One Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that about 3 percent of large truck accidents involve a driver’s use of alcohol or illegal drugs. Many companies that hire commercial vehicle drivers conduct background checks and pre-employment drug screenings.