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Driver accused of hitting, killing runner on Bayshore Boulevard to remain in jail until trial

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 04:00:46-05

TAMPA, Fla. — In a court hearing Wednesday, Judge Catherine M. Catlin ruled Benjamin Ehas, the man accused of hitting and killing a runner on Bayshore Boulevard, will remain behind bars leading up to his trial.

Witnesses testified in the courtroom about the moments leading up to the fatal crash.

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Richard Gonzmart said he was driving next to the white Pinch A Penny pickup truck on Bayshore Boulevard the morning of January 9.

“I thought to myself, he’s gonna kill somebody,” said Gonzmart.

Gonzmart went on to testify, telling the courtroom the Pinch A Penny pickup truck was driving at a very high rate of speed. Gonzmart said he tried to accelerate to get a good look at the tags on the Pinch A Penny truck, but the truck was traveling too fast and Gonzmart didn’t want to endanger the other vehicles around him.

“It was totally out of control. I have not seen a car driving that fast, that dangerously, swerving back and forth like the suspension wasn’t working,” said Gonzmart.

Shortly after, Gonzmart and other witnesses saw the Pinch A Penny truck driving in and out of lanes, witnesses say the Pinch A Penny truck collided with the balustrades on Bayshore Boulevard, hitting and killing 70-year-old George Gage III, and knocking him into the Bay.

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Police later identified the driver of that truck as 30-year-old Benjamin Ehas, an employee of Pinch A Penny at the time.

Corporal Matthew Belmonte with the Tampa Police Department also testified. He described the conversations he had with Ehas in the hospital following the accident.

“He was slurring his speech so badly that at one point I asked a paramedic if he had any injuries to his mouth,” said Belmonte.

Blood tests later found Ehas’s blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal level, and police discovered Ehas purchased and took a double shot of Fireball in the moments leading up to the fatal crash.

“He told me he had smoked marijuana at 7 o’clock in the morning, that he had consumed Suboxone, which was prescribed to him. He said the evening before he consumed Xanax, which was purchased on the street,” said Belmonte.

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In a court hearing Wednesday, the state found Ehas has a history of driving under a suspended license. Because of that, they argued Benjamin Ehas does pose a threat to the community, and they want him to remain in jail leading up to his trial.

Judge Catlin ultimately granted those wishes to keep Ehas behind bars.