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Mystery surrounds tragic accident

Friend thinks woman killed in crash made phone call before dying

By Donna Pazdera
Miami Sun-Sentinel

PARKLAND ~ The woman who called Jerrod Zelanka's house early Sunday was crying and her voice was faint. "I'm at the bottom of a dark hole," the woman said. Then the line went to static. Zelanka hit *69, a code used to automatically trace the call, but the numbr could not be pinpointed.

Now, Zelanka and others think that call somehow was made by his friend, Leah Jean Ash, 20, after she and a friend had an accident on an all-terrain vehicle late Saturday. Ash, of Boca Raton, was a passenger on the three-wheel vehicle driven by Kenneth Coppolo, 33, of Deerfield Beach. Both were found dead early Sunday on the bank of a drainage canal after an accident.

The strange part is, neither Ash nor Coppolo carried a cellular phone that night, Parkland Police Chief Steve List said. Divers from the Broward Sheriff's Office checked the shallow canal on Monday to see whether there was a telephone, but found nothing, List said. Police are getting a subpoena to obtain the telephone records of call made that night to Zelanka's house, List said.

The accident happened toward the end of a rainy evening during which 6 friends took turns riding the Yamaha Banshee 350cc at a construction site for Heron Bay north of Holberg Road between Pine Island and Nob Hill roads in Parkland. Coppolo, whom friends said was an experienced all-terrain vehicle driver, apparently was blinded by the rain and made a turn while traveling about 30 mph. When the two didn't return, Mike Taylor, Ash's boyfriend, began to worry. He and the others called police and tried looking for them in the dark. Finally, about 6 a.m. on Sunday, Zelanka, 20, of Boca Raton and a schoolmate of Ash's, found the bodies after a two-hour search in his four-wheel-drive truck.

This article was published by Miami Sun-Sentinel on March 3, 1998 and was written by Donna Pazdera.

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