TAMPA, Fla. - The driver of a pickup truck who hit a jogger on Bayshore Boulevard late Thursday morning has been charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
Tampa police say 31-year-old Benjamin D. Ehas' blood alcohol concentration was .234 - nearly three times the legal limit - when he veered off the roadway and onto the sidewalk, sending the jogger over the balustrade and into Tampa Bay.
It was just after 11 a.m. when Christopher Martinez says he saw the Pinch A Penny truck speed past him on Bayshore Boulevard.
“It was driving sporadically. I thought the dude was drunk. He was kinda swerving in and out of his lane, going in between cars,” Martinez said, adding he estimates the driver was going about 60 miles per hour on a roadway with a posted speed of 35.
Seconds later, the truck veered off the street and plowed into a person out for a jog, knocking the pedestrian into the bay. Martinez was one of the first people there.
“The driver was outside on the sidewalk on the ground, conscious,” he recalled.
Martinez and a few other witnesses rushed to help. They jumped into the water to rescue the man.
“The guy in the water had a deep leg laceration, foaming at the mouth,” said Martinez. “We got him, we kept his head up for a couple minutes and the fire department actually had a ladder to get him out.”
“When our paramedics arrived, they were in the water already with the person, so that allowed our paramedics to drop a ladder down, go over the side and put him in a basket, and bring that person up so they could be transported,” Jason Penny with Tampa Fire Rescue said.
That man was pronounced dead a short time later.
Police say the Pinch A Penny worker was also taken to the hospital, where his blood was drawn for the blood alcohol test. According to investigators, Ehas admitted to buying and drinking a double shot of Fireball just before the crash around 11 a.m., and said he smoked marijuana around 7 a.m. that morning.
Pinch A Penny released this statement:
Pinch A Penny is shocked and saddened by this tragic incident that occurred this morning involving an employee of a franchised location in Tampa. An investigation is currently underway and the local franchisee is fully cooperating with authorities. We send our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those involved.
The name of the man who was killed is not being released.
The crash caused damage to the balustrade along the popular sidewalk and spewed pool chemicals across the road and into the water. HAZMAT crews had to be called to the scene to clean up the mess.
Northbound lanes remained closed into the evening for the investigation and cleanup.
The crash happened less than a mile from where a mother and her baby were killed while in a crosswalk on Bayshore in 2018. Since then, police and city transportation officials have taken steps to slow drivers along the busy multi-lane road, where speeding is a common complaint.
"The city has done a lot to make Bayshore Boulevard very safe," insisted TPD spokesperson Jamel Laneé. "Lowering the speed limit, putting signs out for drivers and pedestrians to be safe. The hope is that everyone gets the message to slow down."