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Crash of Cop Car Kills 3 Teens

April 8, 2002

BELL, Fla. (AP) _ A sheriff’s deputy on an emergency call collided with a pickup truck, killing three teen-agers, critically injuring another and leaving the officer in serious condition.

Gilchrist County Deputy Darrell J. Rhoten, 22, had his lights flashing Sunday when the four teens crossed his path in a rural highway intersection north of Bell, according to police reports.

No one had been wearing a seat belt. The deputy and three of the teens were ejected from their vehicles, which both overturned.

It was not known if alcohol was involved the accident, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Christopher Sutton, 17, Jacob Dell Edwards, 18, both of High Springs, and Julee Marie Guerra, 15, of Bell, died in the crash. Brittany Ann Walchle, 16, of Bell, was admitted to a hospital in critical condition. She was in serious condition Monday.

Rhoten had been upgraded Monday to fair condition.

Students and family members gathered at the accident scene Sunday, many crying and shaken.

``They were all good kids,″ Annette Bagby, a guidance clerk at Bell High School, said Monday. ``The deputy graduated from here too. It’s horrible.″

Bell is a farming community about 25 miles northwest of Gainesville.

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