Wrong way driver who died in crash at Skyway identified

Josh Cascio reports

- At 3:40 Friday morning, cameras on the roof of a toll plaza show Shontel Chase, 29, of New Port Richey, headed north in the southbound lanes.

Minutes later she was dead, crashing almost head-on with another vehicle on the Manatee County side of the Skyway bridge.

The driver of a GMC pickup truck, Jon Mitchell, 55, of Palmetto, was taken to Blake Medical Center in critical condition.

"I have known him as long as I have been alive," said Terrace Dunbar, 42, a neighbor of Mitchell's family.

Dunbar grew up next to Mitchell's family, and says as soon as they got word of the accident, they gathered in their home off Route 41 in Palmetto to pray.

"Right now, everybody is holding strength as one," he said. "Everybody is coming together, we are feeding off each other. All in all, we tend to remain positive."

He isn't exactly sure where Mitchell was coming from, but guessed that the longtime music DJ had a gig in Pinellas County that ended in the hour before the crash.

"We didn't necessarily go into any questions or dig into it very much," said Dunbar. "The main thing at this point was to figure out where we could be as a family."

Meanwhile, friends and family of Shontel Chase began to mourn after learning of her death. Chase was a barber at Tim's Barber Shop on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in St. Petersburg.

"She's just an absolutely amazing person. Very cheery, very bright, colorful, and also a happy person," said Timothy Rinker.

Rinker runs Tim's Barber Shop. Chase had been working there for about a year.

"It was a great honor to have her here and it's going to be a deep loss. We'll feel the loss for a long time," Rinker said.

State troopers had to close the bridge for much of the morning as they collected evidence. They believe that both drivers saw one another coming and at the last second and tried to swerve. However, they inadvertently swerved in the same direction, thus, right into one another.

Sharon Galonka of Sarasota saw the crash's aftermath.

"I don't have any idea how that happened," she said. "Bless the families. That is all you can do."

State police are doing a toxicology test to see if Chase was under the influence. They do not believe that Mitchell had been drinking.

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