By Mitch Traphagen
RUSKIN -An automobile accident on State Road 674 near I-75 claimed the lives of three women on July 9.
Cleo Broome of Ruskin, Janis Creason of McDonough, Ga, and Amy Creason of Fairburg, Ga were all pronounced deceased at the scene. The three women were grandmother, mother and daughter.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, carbon monoxide fumes may have been a factor when James K. Scheffler, 70, failed to stop coming off the northbound exit ramp of I-75. Scheffler’s 10-ton truck slammed into Broome’s east bound vehicle. The impact pushed the 1994 Mercury across the median and both west bound lanes of S.R. 674.
"It’s bad, it’s always bad when people lose their lives," said HCSO Corporal Joe Burt who was at the scene.
The accident shut down both sides of S.R. 674 for several hours while emergency personnel and investigators completed their work.
The 1973 truck belonged to Southern Sewer and Septic of Ruskin.
According to HCSO Traffic Homicide investigators and a Vehicle Compliance Officer from the Department of Transportation, the truck was determined to have defective equipment.
Several bald tires were found, several leaf springs were broken, holes were found in the exhaust manifold and holes were found in the cab itself.
According to HCSO Lt. Rod Reder, these problems did not cause the crash, however. Also, the brakes were determined to be in good working order.
The holes in the exhaust manifold and in the cab may have allowed dangerous carbon monoxide to enter the cab, thus impairing Scheffler while driving.
On July 11, HCSO investigators issued two civil citations to Scheffler for Violation of Right of Way and for Operating a Vehicle with Unsafe / Improper Equipment.
No criminal charges are planned at this time.
Scheffler, who was unhurt in the accident, cited brake failure as the cause of the accident. Investigators believe that he may have accidentally stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal at the ramp stop sign.
Scheffler had been cited previously for vehicle infractions. He was found guilty on two occasions, the most recent case in 2002.
Cleo Broome, 66, was a resident of this area for more than 30 years. Her daughter Janis Creason was 48 and her granddaughter Amy Creason was 32.
Gold Bank of Ruskin has set up a fund for Amy Creason’s 10-year-old son Tyler who was visiting in Ruskin with his mother. Tyler was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
For information on contributing to the Tyler Creason fund, call Gold Bank at 649-0400.