BRANDON — Relatives are left to wonder what was so important that two women had to park in a turn lane in order to argue about it.
The move proved fatal. Both women, described by acquaintances as a couple, were mowed down where they stood about 10:30 p.m. Sunday by a driver who had been drinking, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
"Everybody is taking it pretty hard," said Anthony Troutman, whose 28-year-old niece, Tanaysha Troutman, died in the crash. "When we first heard how it happened, we wondered why she had to get out of the car, why there, why then? All those whys come into place."
Also killed was Victoria Patten, 33, of Brandon. The two women were in the same car.
A third woman driving a second car, Arlene Stephanie Jordan Cruz, 38, of Gibsonton also pulled up to park, the Sheriff’s Office said. Cruz received injuries that were not life-threatening and was undergoing treatment Monday at Tampa General Hospital.
All three women were struck by a 2005 Hyundai driven by Guillermo R. Ruiz, 22, of Wesley Chapel. Ruiz told deputies he drank beer earlier in the evening, and he submitted to a blood alcohol test, the Sheriff’s Office said. An investigation awaits the results. His driving record includes two careless driving citations in the past five years.
Early Monday, the Sheriff’s Office said the argument in the road arose from a "love triangle" but the office later backed away from that account, saying investigators still had to interview Cruz.
The women parked in a turn lane beside a grass median along a divided stretch of Providence Boulevard that runs through a residential area just south of Providence Lakes Boulevard.
Besides her parents, Troutman left behind three brothers and two sisters, her uncle said. She had recently worked as an assistant manager in a fast-food restaurant.
According to Patten’s Facebook page, she was a native of Aiken, S.C., and had worked as a bank teller.
Friends described Troutman and Patten as a couple in social media posts mourning their deaths. Over the past few months, Troutman and Patten had expressed their affection for each other on Facebook.
Ranese Farrior said in an interview via Facebook that Troutman was a friend of hers and a former star basketball player at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, where she graduated in 2008.
"The whole city of Lakeland is affected by her passing," Farrior said. "She had a lot of friends and was considered the class clown."
Greg Whit, Troutman’s coach at Kathleen High, remembered her tenacity in rehabilitating herself after tearing an ACL in both her freshman and sophomore years.
"She became one of the best point guards we ever had," Whit said, "and someone with a tremendous personality and attitude."
Troutman’s uncle echoed that sentiment, saying she excelled at basketball from the moment she was old enough to play but more important, he added, "She was a person full of life who always had a smile on her face.
"A lot of people were easily attracted to her personality. She was well liked and well received by a lot of people."
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Paul Guzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.