Five dead in speeding crash


Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 4:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 4:54 p.m.

OCALA, Fla. - A car speeding down a private airport runway ran off an embankment and was airborne for 200 feet before smashing into a tree early Saturday, killing all five young men in the vehicle, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The crash at the exclusive "fly-in" community of Jumbolair Aviation Estates, which is also the home of actor John Travolta, happened at about 3:45 a.m. According to a preliminary Florida Highway Patrol investigation, a 2008 gray BMW with 5 occupants, ages 18 to 20, was traveling at a high speed on the airstrip.

As it neared the end of the runway, the car skidded and traveled off the end of an 85-foot high embankment, became airborne for 200 feet and struck a large tree.

At impact, the vehicle split in half and the car's engine separated from the vehicle, scattering pieces of the car over about a 200 square foot area. Three of the five occupants were ejected from the vehicle and all were pronounced dead at the scene, according to Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Mike Burroughs said.

The victims have been identified as Joshua D. Ammirato, 18, of Fairfield, who was identified as the driver of the $75,000 car; Dustin J. Dawe, 19, also of Fairfield; James Devon Hime, 19, of Anthony; and Jacob James Casey, 19 and Isaac Rubin, 20, both of Ocala. It was not clear if any of the men lived within the gated community.

"There is no doubt this is a terrible tragedy. They should not have been out there," Burroughs said.

Troopers were still investigating the accident Saturday afternoon, and Burroughs said it had not been determined if the young men were wearing seatbelts, how fast the car was going and whether alcohol was involved.

"It is too early to determine if alcohol was involved. There was no visible signs of it," said Burroughs, who said troopers will await the results of autopsies.

Investigators did not know at this time whether the vehicle was speeding or racing another car.

A telephone listing for Jumbolair rang unanswered on Saturday, and an e-mail sent by The Assocaited Press to an address listed on the community's Web site was not immediately returned.

At the black iron gate of the exclusive community, a reporter was asked to leave and told over an intercom that no one was available to talk about the accident.

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