TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A former pool service truck driver pleaded guilty Tuesday to DUI manslaughter in a crash that killed a pedestrian on Bayshore Boulevard in January.
Police say Benjamin Ehas, who was 31 at the time, was driving north on Bayshore in a Pinch-A-Penny truck when he went off the road and hit 70-year-old George Gage, who was walking on the sidewalk. Tampa police said Ehas had a BAC of .234 at the time of the crash.
Ehas entered a guilty plea for DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony. As part of the plea deal, the state agreed to drop the charge of vehicular homicide against him.
The now 32-year-old was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. He will receive credit for the 328 days already served. Ehas will also have his driver’s license revoked for life.
Tampa police arrested Ehas on Jan. 9 after the crash. 8 On Your Side previously reported that Ehas admitted to police he drank a double shot of Fireball whiskey and smoked marijuana in the morning before the crash.
Witnesses said they observed him driving the white truck recklessly at an estimated 60 to 70 mph in the 35 mph speed zone on Bayshore.
Ehas read a statement in court from the Falkenburg Road Jail to say he took full responsibility for his actions and was “deeply sorry.” He also said he hopes the victim’s family could “have forgiveness in their hearts” one day.
The state attorney’s office said the family was involved in coming up with the terms of the plea deal and did not want the case to go to trial.
A prosecutor read the following impact statement on behalf of Gage’s family during Tuesday afternoon’s court hearing:
“Due to COVID-19 court restrictions, we are expressing our feelings through this letter instead of in-person.
It is impossible to put into words what your thoughtless, reckless actions on Jan. 9 have done to our family and everyone that was close to George. To say that we are devastated, traumatized, heartbroken and forever changed would be a gross understatement. We never in a million years would have thought something like this would or could happen to our family and not a moment goes by that we are not reminded of what happened that day and of George. Your actions that day will be forever embedded in our brains, our hearts and our souls.
Now, almost 11 months later, we still have a hard time explaining to George’s five grandchildren how this could happen to ‘Pop’ when he was doing nothing wrong. He was just on his daily walk, speaking to his sister Jane (which he did for hours every day and she passed a few months ago unexpectedly – probably from a broken heart) when you recklessly swerved off the road and ended his life way too soon.
We will never fully recover from this and can only take things one day at a time and hope that the pain subsides eventually. We choose to remember all the good times that we had with him as he was a man of God, wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend to so many.
We cannot harbor negative feelings toward you but we just hope that you will find the support to make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to ensure that this never, ever will happen again. We hope that you make a valiant effort to give back to society in a positive way and maybe help others with their addiction so that you could possibly save someone else down the road.”
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