Pinellas Park, Florida -- A 23-year-old woman was killed early Friday morning after she was ejected out of the bed of a pickup truck while leaving a bar.
Pinellas Park officers say Lauren Elizabeth Gifford was riding in the bed of the Ford F-150 King Cab with two other girls as they left the Watering Trough bar when the driver, Russell Clark, started driving erratically.
Clark reportedly drove over the 66th Street median and then over a curb in the RaceTrac parking lot. When he hit the curb, the back of the truck jumped and ejected Gifford out of the back. Gifford landed on the pavement and was pronounced dead at the scene. Her specific injuries and cause of death are still being determined by the medical examiner's office.
After she was ejected, 24-year-old Clark reportedly stopped the truck and everyone got out to check on her. Shortly after, Clark ran off leaving the vehicle behind. His passenger, Brett Koepke, then went back to the truck and drove off leaving Gifford on the ground and the two other girls behind. As he drove off, witnesses told police, Clark was seen running after the truck north on 66th Street and yelling at him to stop. When Koepke didn't, Clark took off north of the RaceTrac.
Police say because witnesses stayed at the scene, they were able to identify Clark and Koepke quickly and get to Clark later that morning. He was interviewed and a blood sample was taken to be tested for alcohol. No charges have been filed at this time but are expected pending the toxicology results.
Koepke, however, has not been located as of this posting and authorities are still looking for him to speak to him.