Investigators are on the lookout for a hit-and-run driver who they say struck and killed a skateboarder early Wednesday.
The accident happened near the intersection of Upper Manatee River Road and Waterlefe Boulevard just before 3 a.m. The roadway and nearby Fort Hamer Bridge were shut down for nearly five hours during the morning commute.
The victim is a 15-year-old boy.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, EMS workers first noticed the skateboarder around 2:15 a.m. as they were transporting a patient to the hospital. They say he was traveling on the north side of Upper Manatee River Road with no lights or reflectors.
Roughly 30 minutes later, after dropping off the patient, the same ambulance traveled back on Upper Manatee River Road and discovered the skateboard laying in the roadway. That’s when they located debris from a vehicle scattered across the roadway and the victim deceased by the side of the road.
“There is no way this driver does not know they hit someone or something,” said Trooper Kenn Watson with the Florida Highway Patrol. “The bottom line is, they should have stayed on scene. With the amount of damage that vehicle sustained, they’ve got to know they hit someone.”
Investigators are looking for a 2012-2015 silver Toyota Tacoma with extensive front end damage.
Anyone with information about the driver or vehicle is asked to dial *347.
On July 1, 2014, the penalties for hit and run drivers changed when the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (section 316.027, Florida Statutes) was signed into Florida law. The statute is named after Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old father of two that was fatally struck by a drunk driver that fled the crash site in February 2012 in central Florida. The hit and run driver was sentenced to two years in prison, which is a lesser sentence than what the driver would have served had he been sentenced on a DUI manslaughter charge. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act imposes a mandatory minimum of 4 years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in a fatality.
In the state of Florida, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. Leaving the scene of a crash where injuries have resulted is a second or third-degree felony carrying consequences of up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine and a revoked license for 3 years. Leaving the scene of a crash with a fatality is a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison or up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine as well as a revoked license for 3 years.
There are a great number of reasons drivers choose to flee the scene of a crash site in Florida. Some drivers are drunk or under the influence of drugs and they fear being charged with a DUI, especially if they have been charged with a DUI before. They might also be scared of being charged with other vehicle crimes associated with causing injury or death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Some drivers may be so intoxicated that they do not even realize that they have caused an accident, and drive away without even knowing the devastation they have caused. Other drivers leave the scene because they are driving without a license, driving without registration, or driving without insurance. Some may be driving a stolen vehicle, or they may be wanted by police for another crime, like an outstanding warrant. Others are just afraid of what they have done and too scared to face the consequences of their actions.
It is absolutely vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after a hit-and-run accident. As time goes on, important evidence can be lost or destroyed, and witnesses may forget important information, or you may not be able to find them.