Car hits streaking, post-game reveler


Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:06 p.m.

A celebratory streaker dashing across W. University Avenue following Florida's national championship victory ran into the path of a car and is hospitalized in critical condition, officials said.

Facts

Victory aftermath

  • Only one serious incident resulted from the partying near the University of Florida on Monday night.
  • The only arrest associated with the celebration was an arson charge against Kelsey Smith, 21, for reportedly setting a Christmas tree afire on W. University Avenue.
  • No one managed to climb the light poles because the city greased the poles with cooking spray.

Police said that was the only serious incident resulting from the raucous partying near the University of Florida on Monday night.

Injured was Matthew T. Schlagheck, 23. Police said they believe he is a recent University of Florida graduate and his page on the Facebook Web site indicated he is living in Orlando.

Police said the accident happened about 1:06 a.m. near 2200 W. University Ave. The driver of the car that hit Schlagheck was George M. Harrison, 24, of Gainesville.

Schlagheck came out of a house at 2291 W. University Ave. and ran into traffic, police said.

"He was streaking. He ran out of the house. There was a break in eastbound traffic. He ran through the cars but never looked east, and a car was traveling west," Sgt. Keith Kameg said. "He ran into the car. He was knocked in the air and landed about 15 feet away."

Schlagheck was listed in critical condition at Shands at the University of Florida Monday afternoon. Police said he is expected to survive.

The only arrest associated with the celebration was an arson charge against Kelsey Smith, 21, for reportedly setting a Christmas tree afire on W. University Avenue outside the Swamp Restaurant, Kameg said.

No one managed to climb the light poles to sit on the crossbars, as they did when Florida won the NCAA basketball championship in April, because the city greased the poles with PAM cooking spray. But some people tried.

"The one I saw was like a cartoon. He got a running start, hit the pole, hugged it and slid right down," Kameg said. "He seriously looked like the Roadrunner."

But trees were not greased and crowd members managed to climb and uproot a small one along at NW 17th Street and University Avenue.

The post-game party started before the game had even ended. Gators head coach Urban Meyer's fourth-quarter victory fist-pump prompted the thousands of students watching the game at the O'Connell Center to head for the streets.

Nick Rosado, a UF sophomore who was working security at the O'Connell Center, stepped back and watched as the doors to the lobby snapped open and a throng of screaming students sprinted outside.

"That's why we moved the table and everything else out of the way," Rosado said, taking a step backward. "University is about to go nuts."

The parade of orange and blue slowed to a brisk walk by the time it got outside and then stalled when it hit the first row of bars on W. University.

Fireworks flew. Fans threw streamers and spewed Silly String. They burned Ohio State paraphernalia and screamed until their voices were hoarse.

Saraa Basaria, a 19-year-old sophomore, emerged from the mob on W. University and 17th Street missing a shoe, and said while the loss of a shoe was all in good fun, she wouldn't be heading through the crowd again.

"People are going to have a lot of missing stuff when this is over," said her friend, 19-year-old sophomore Alisha Bhimani.

GPD's Kameg described the post-victory atmosphere as "controlled chaos."

He said officials closed off W. University from 13th Street to 22nd Street at about 11:45 p.m. Monday to allow people a chance to celebrate in the street, and opened the street again at roughly 2:30 a.m.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com

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