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Local man sentenced for his roll in a fatal car accident

From the Tampa Bay Times, a local man was sentenced for his involvement in an automobile accident that killed two people. Now the bar may be getting sued as well.

Before he left a Clearwater Beach Resort in his truck and smashed into a tandem bicycle and killed its two riders, the defendant had a drink. And then two. And then more and more.

The defendantcan be seen drinking alcoholic beverages at the hotel bar where he worked in surveillance video obtained by the Tampa Bay Times from the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office. People who appear to be his co-workers also are drinking. At one point they raise shot glasses together.

The video is likely to become important evidence in a civil lawsuit against the Clearwater Beach hotel previously accused of serving alcohol to people already intoxicated.

It also raises a question for bars and restaurants that cater to Tampa Bay area tourists and locals: When do you cut someone off? And what if that someone is your employee?

The beach bar's attorney would not answer questions about the case, but released this statement:

"Our deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to the families involved in this tragic accident," it said. "Out of respect for both the families and the judicial process, we feel that it would be inappropriate to comment upon these important issues at this time."

The video shows the suspect had "at least three or four shots while at the bar and one or two beers while at the bar," an Assistant State Attorney said at a recent court hearing. "The defendant indicated to law enforcement that he blacked out, does not recall anything about the crash," he added.

But the ASA said the suspect admitted to friends that he was the only one driving the truck, "and that he had hit something, or hit someone."

The 30-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and is expected to be sentenced on May 19 to 11 years in prison and three years of probation as part of a plea agreement.

The morning of the fatal crash last September, he had been working as a "bar back" at the bar and had some drinks afterward. The video first shows him taking a drink at the bar at 3:19 a.m., according to the time stamp on the video, presumably when the bar was closed. Most of the drinking appears to take place between 4:15 and 5:15 a.m.

The suspect then ran into the couple on a tandem bicycle on Memorial Causeway between 6 and 6:15 a.m. He did not stop. The crash killed a Largo man and woman.

In December, the deceased's family filed a lawsuit against the defendant and the bar saying the bar should not have provided alcohol to the defendant.

There have been other lawsuits against this bar involving alcohol. In 2008, for example, a 22-year-old man was killed in an accident while walking across Memorial Causeway, purportedly after drinking at the popular beach hangout. The man's father sued, saying it should not have served him because it knew he was a "habitual drunkard." The case was settled.

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