Series of Interstate 75 crashes lead to unusual rescue

SAN ANTONIO — David Boyer, a detective in the Pasco sheriff’s missing persons division, walked out his front door Thursday night, headed to his neighborhood’s community center at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club. He stopped in his drive way. There, lying next to his SUV, a little brown and white dog looked up at him. No owner was around. No leash.

As Boyer called the dog over to him, a Bayflite helicopter swooped low over the neighborhood and landed on Interstate 75, about a football field away.

Boyer looked at the dog’s tag and found his name: Gooseberry. The tag listed a phone number in Fort Myers. He called and connected with the answering machine. A man named Jeff said to leave a message. Boyer did, then waited.

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An hour went by and no call back. Boyer used his training to track down missing people and found the number for Connie Deane, Jeff’s mom.

She told Boyer her son, a Florida State University student, had been driving that night from Tallahassee to Naples for an internship. He brought Gooseberry with him.

As he crossed into Pasco County, thunderstorms struck the interstate, triggering a series of four crashes starting around 8 p.m. near State Road 52. Eight vehicles were involved, leading to several injuries. The last crash, between a Chevrolet pickup and a semitrailer truck killed James Joseph Brennan, 57, of Seffner. Troopers were still investigating the crashes Friday and details were sketchy.

It was not clear which wreck Jeff Deane was in. Somehow, Gooseberry slipped out of his truck and made it safely away from the interstate. The dog could have wandered anywhere, but Gooseberry ended up in Boyer’s driveway.

The helicopter that swooped over Boyer was bringing patients from the wreck to hospitals. One of them was Deane, who was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.

He remained in intensive care Friday afternoon, but his mother said she expected him to be okay. Boyer used a leash and dog food from a neighbor and, as of Friday evening, was holding onto Gooseberry until the family could come get the dog.

“I was very glad to hear Jeff was safe,” Boyer said, “and was happy to take care of Gooseberry as long as they needed.”

Contact Alex Orlando at or (727) 869-6247.