5 young men die in Marion crash


The Florida Highway Patrol investigates the accident scene in Anthony on Saturday.

JANNET WALSH/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 11:23 p.m.

ANTHONY - Family and friends of five young men were mourning Saturday after learning about the early-morning crash on an airstrip adjacent to Jumbolair Aviation Estates in northern Marion County.

FHP officials have identified the five friends as Jacob James Casey, 19, James Devon Hime, 19, and Isaac Rubin, 20, all of Ocala; and Joshua D. Ammirato, 18, and Dustin J. Dawe, 19, both of Fairfield.

All five were pronounced dead at the scene.

Ammirato was driving his father's gray 2008 BMW. The $80,000 car was traveling north on Runway 36, a 1.5-mile-long airstrip that actor John Travolta - a resident of Jumbolair - and others regularly use.

Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Jeff Succi said there were marks at the end of the runway that indicated the car turned sideways before launching over an embankment. It then sailed through the air about 200 feet before slamming into a large tree, FHP said.

Troopers believe the car traveled up the 80- to 85-foot elevation embankment at the end of the airstrip and struck the tree about 15 feet above the ground. The car broke into two pieces upon impact.

Three of the victims were ejected. Two were partially ejected, FHP offcials said. It is not yet known whether any of the victims were wearing seat belts.

The accident was reported to Marion County Fire Rescue at 3:47 a.m. All five were pronounced dead less than 10 minutes later by Marion County Fire and Rescue paramedics at the scene.

What was left of the vehicle came to rest in flames near the home of Augustine and Kristina Berenguer. The Berenguers were awakened by a bang and saw flames through a window. They said the nearby crash shook their house.

Augustine Berenguer went outside to see what had happened and shouted back for his wife to call 911.

George Borger, who lives next to the airstrip, said he awoke to the sound of car engines at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I saw them going up and down the runway," he said. "They were flying."

Three of the young men - Hime, Ammirato, and Dawe - are former students of North Marion High School. Rubin attended Forest High School; Casey graduated from Trinity Catholic High.

Residents in the area told troopers that local teens regularly sneak onto the airstrip via an entrance in a nearby, ungated subdivision.

Jeremy Thayer, co-owner of Jumbolair Aviation Estates, said he and wife Terri Jones-Thayer were called just before 8 a.m. Saturday and told about the accident.

"We are used to noise on the runway at night with planes landing," Thayer said.

"And we have had teens out there we have had to chase off, but it's so large it's impossible to stop them all. It's a mile and a half runway, so if someone wanted to get out there they can."

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