By SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor
---- — SEBRING, Fla. — Barbara and Francis Gero had planned just a short stay in Florida before returning home to AuSable Forks for Christmas with family.
On Thursday, though, Mr. Gero was killed a car crash, and Mrs. Gero suffered life-threatening injuries.
Friday, with her daughter and son-in-law, Rebecca and Jason Fuller, and other family by her side, her condition remained critical.
“We love them both dearly,” said Chris Garrow of Jay, whose wife, Pamela, is Mrs. Gero’s sister and also flew to Florida to be with her. “We’re just saying a lot of prayers for Barb.”
‘JAGUAR STRUCK CURB’
The Geros had brought a car for repair Thursday and were heading back to their Florida home when the crash occurred, Garrow said.
Just before 1 p.m., as the couple traveled along U.S. 27 South in their 2001 Ford Focus, Robert Goldstein was headed northward in a 2003 Jaguar. A witness told police that the Jaguar entered the left-turn-lane divider as if it intended to turn left across the southbound lanes, but it did not slow down.
Goldstein’s car struck the curb at the end of the turn lane, police said, forcing it to face northward and enter the southbound lane where the Gero’s vehicle was traveling.
The Jaguar’s front driver’s side struck the front driver’s side of the Ford Focus, which became airborne and rolled, crossing three lanes of traffic and coming to rest on its driver’s side at the entrance to Route 27 South.
Mr. Gero, police said, was pinned between his car and the roadway and was declared deceased by emergency medical crews responding to the accident.
Mrs. Gero was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where she remained in the Trauma Unit on Friday.
The crash initiated by the Jaguar, police said, was compounded when a Nissan Maxima driven by Amanda Monday, traveling behind the Geros, struck that car. That impact caused the Jaguar to spin clockwise into the center lane, police said, where it was hit by a Dodge Caravan.
Police said Goldstein was taken to Highlands Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Neither Monday nor Leonor Guzman, who was driving the Caravan, required medical attention, police said, but a passenger in her car was brought by ambulance to Florida Hospital.
The Geros had buttoned up their Silver Lake Road home in the Town of Black Brook and then, on Oct. 23, headed for Florida, Garrow said.
After the trip back to the North Country for Christmas, their plan had been to return to Florida for the rest of the winter.
They had bought that home about a year ago, said Roger Long of Adirondack Hardware in Keeseville, where Mrs. Gero had worked for 28 years.
Mrs. Gero had officially retired on Oct. 8, he said, after coming in intermittently over the summer to help train her replacement.
Her husband had hung up his hat with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision a few years earlier.
The Geros and Longs are pretty much family, he said, often celebrating important milestones together, such as weddings.
Mrs. Gero had been vice president of the hardware company for many years, then stepped in as president when Long’s father had become ill.
Long assumed that position in August, as the Geros prepared for their trip south.
‘DEDICATED FAMILY MAN’
Mr. Gero “was hardworking, a dedicated family man and avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing,” Long said.
“They both enjoyed spending a lot of time with their friends.”
Mr. Gero “was just a wonderful man; he was one of my best friends,” Garrow said.
“He loved his family and friends, his daughter and his grandson (Jackson).”
And Mr. Gero just loved Florida, his brother-in-law said.
“He just loved to be out on the lake, in the water, on a boat, fishing.”
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