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Monday, Sep 01, 2014

Hit-and-run victims inseparable, relatives say

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Published:   |   Updated: June 26, 2014 at 10:29 PM

— They gathered Thursday evening outside a tiny house tucked behind a car wash, gas station and liquor store, mourning the deaths of two family members who died in a fiery crash earlier in the day, and hoping a third wouldn't meet the same fate.

The survivor, Grace Lashawn Collier, 25, was at the wheel of a Saturn that was struck by a Chrysler 200 with such force that it ruptured the Saturn's gas tank, causing it to burst into flames, St. Petersburg police say.

When help arrived, Collier was lying about 15 feet in front of the car, one patrol officer said. Still inside the burning car were Collier's two nieces, Briana Lequinda Campbell, 23, and Jame'sia Chera Santoria Lang, 21. They could not be rescued and were later pronounced dead.

Collier was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she was in critical condition.

The driver of the Chrysler fled after the 3 a.m. wreck at Ninth Avenue South and 16th Street, St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said. Investigators have talked with the registered owner of the Chrysler, but declined to release any details.

Both the Chrysler and the car the women were in had just left Club One South Bar, 1833 First Ave. S., according to police and family members.

At the time of the collision, the Chrysler was barrelling south in the northbound lanes of 16th Street at a high rate of speed when it struck the Saturn, whose driver was attempting to turn left into a parking lot, police said.

Two of the women were supposed to be dropped off at their respective homes, before the third drove the Saturn to her house, said Reginald Campbell, Campbell's great-uncle.

“They never got a chance, and we never got a chance to see them together again,” he said.

Campbell's mother, Cora “Peaches” Campbell, was so upset she asked family members to talk to reporters across the street from the small house at 4913 23rd Ave. S. in Gulfport, where Cora and Briana lived with Briana's 3-year-old twins and 1-year-old son.

Briana was her only child.

Lang, who lived in an apartment in St. Petersburg, leaves behind a 5-year-old boy; and Collier, also living in St. Petersburg, has two boys, ages 6 and 2, family members said.

Lang worked two jobs, at a JCPenney and a Wendy's restaurant. Campbell worked in the dietary department at the Alhambra Nursing Home in St. Petersburg, and Collier did everyone's hair, family members said.

They were by all accounts inseparable, and though one was an aunt and the other two nieces they were often mistaken for cousins, family members said.

“They never hung with nobody but themselves,” Reginald Campbell said.

With other family members, they played kickball together on the weekends at Northwest Park, near Tyrone Middle School. They showed up together to play the Ring of Fire drinking card game, and recently together they went to the Dave and Busters restaurant in Orlando, a sort of Chuck E. Cheese for adults.

“These three always hung together — The Three Amigos,” said Brittany Campbell, 24, a cousin who works as a certified nursing assistant. “But the three amigos are not going to be the three amigos any more.”

“It's going to be hard to see one of them without the other two there,” she said.

sthompson@tampatrib.com. (727) 215-6504.

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