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Longboat Key Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015 5 years ago

Top Story — April: Car crash fatality on GMD

Catch up on the hottest news items of the of the year with the Observer’s Digital Year in Review.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key reported its first car crash fatality since 2012 Sunday night on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Longboat Key dispatch received a report of a reckless driver driving a blue four-door Kia passing several cars dangerously while driving southbound near the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive just before 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

A few minutes later, dispatch sent Longboat Key Police Officer Christopher Bauman to the scene of a reported head-on collision car crash at 9:30 p.m. near Pattigeorges restaurant at 4120 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

The driver of the blue Kia, John Edwards, 81, of Bradenton, attempted another pass and merged into the northbound lane, driving straight into a silver four-door Toyota traveling northbound on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Bauman found Edwards pinned in his vehicle and without a pulse when he arrived at 9:32 p.m. Bauman reported Edwards was bleeding in several places and he was unable to administer CPR.

The Kia was sitting on sidewalk on the east side of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Key firefighter paramedics pronounced Edwards, who was laying in the passenger seat up against the dashboard, dead at the scene.

Less than a minute after Bauman’s arrival, Sergeant Jeff Morningstar arrived on the scene and found the driver of the Toyota, Gerald Claeys of Bradenton, 76, lucid. Morningstar asked Claeys to get out of his Toyota because smoke was coming from the engine.

Claeys’ car, which was knocked backward, was in the middle of the southbound lane of Gulf of Mexico Drive facing northbound.

Claeys was alert and standing outside of his vehicle when firefighter paramedics arrived on the scene. He suffered no broken bones but was diagnosed with a concussion.

Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming called the crash “very unfortunate.”

The Sarasota Police Department was called to the scene because there was a fatality and utilized its crime scene detective and crime scene unit to work and take over the investigation.

Bauman and Morningstar hung crime scene tape on both lanes of the intersection to close the road, which wasn’t reopened until 4:13 a.m. Monday. Bradenton Beach police officers arrived on the scene to assist with turning around traffic on the north side of the crash, while Sarasota police officers did the same for traffic just south of the crash.

Mayor Jack Duncan called the fatality “a tragic situation” in an email Monday morning to Town Manager Dave Bullock.

“Please thank the officers and the paramedic team for their quick response  in getting the surviving party to Blake Medical Center,” Duncan wrote.

Both cars were towed from the site once the crime scene unit was finished with its investigation. A complete report from the Sarasota Police Department will be released in a couple of weeks.

It’s the first car crash fatality on the Key since Jan. 28, 2012, when Jo Schatterman, 73, of Elk Grove Village, Ill. was returning from St. Armands Circle at 6:15 p.m. on the trolley with her sister, Myra Sandler.

The trolley dropped them off across the street his her unit at the Islander Club in the 2200 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive and the two waited until the northbound lane was clear to cross to the middle of the road, where they waited for traffic to clear in the southbound lane, according to Sandler. After Sandler crossed the road, she heard a thud and discovered Schatterman was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle driven by Peter Sibinic of Sarasota.

That 2012 fatality, which was the first fatality reported on Longboat Key since a bicycle fatality in April 2005, prompted discussions by the town and the Florida Department of Transportation for ways to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety. It also led to the approval of four crosswalks along Gulf of Mexico Drive planned for construction at the end of the year.

Enhanced lighting for Gulf of Mexico Drive is also labeled a top priority for future road enhancements and the town is in discussions with FDOT for pedestrian-friendly roundabouts at Broadway and Longboat Club Road on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

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