WINTER HAVEN — An Oklahoma man believed to be both speeding and under the influence of alcohol has been charged with vehicular homicide in the deaths that resulted in a deadly crash in Winter Haven that left pregnant woman and her unborn baby dead.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s office, Thomas J. Dick was exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 20 miles per hour when the crash occurred, and he had a Blood Alcohol Content of .131 — nearly twice the legal limit of presumed impairment.
“A blood draw was taken from the suspect, which will be sent to the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) lab for analysis,” noted Stephanie Mier, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case.
Dick is in the custody of the sheriff’s officeat an area hospital, and will be transported to the Polk County Jail once he gets released.
The crash was so serious that it left parts of U.S. 27 South closed on Sunday night, and did not reopen until 5:30 a.m. on Monday.
Polk County Sheriff’s Traffic Homicide deputies are still investigating this crash, which involved two vehicles on U.S. 27 and Cypress Gardens Boulevard in Winter Haven. Not long afterwards, one fatality was confirmed, and Dick got charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of driving under the influence manslaughter, two counts of DUI involving serious bodily injury, DUI crash involving property damage, and DUI.
Detectives say what is known so far is that a 2010 Chrysler van was stopped at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Cypress Gardens Boulevard at a red light, in the outside southbound lane and north of the intersection. The driver was 32 year-old Tawnya T. White of Bartow, whose three passengers includedg Tiffany Ann Woodham of Bartow — who was nine months pregnant with a baby girl.
While the van was stopped at the red light, a 2012 Silver Dodge Ram was travelling southbound on U.S. 27 from Dundee, being driven by Dick, 37, of 7478 E. 48th St. Apt. 113 in, Tulsa, Oklahoma was “observed by a witness to be driving recklessly, and thought the driver may be impaired,” Mier noted. “The Silver Dodge pickup was speeding and ran off the road on more than one occasion.”
Just as the Dodge pickup was approaching the Chrysler van, the traffic signal switched to a green light — but before the van could proceed, the Dodge pickup collided into it. The impact of the collision was so strong that both vehicles continued to move southbound after that initial impact.
“The Dodge pickup began to rotate around the Chrysler van, which was also rotated,” Mier said.
The Chrysler van stopped on the inside lane of eastbound Cypress Gardens Boulevard, while the Dodge pickup stopped moving on the southern shoulder of that same highway.
According to witnesses at the scene, Dick exited his vehicle after it came to a final rest. When deputies arrived at the scene, “Law enforcement officers detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Dick’s breath,” Mier noted.
It was later determined that Dick had been speeding.
All of the people inside the Chrysler van sustained injuries. White was taken to Winter Haven Hospital and treated for bruises and lacerations, while the right rear seat passenger, 22-year-old Zachary Dave Rowles, was also transported to that hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
The front right seat passenger, 37-year-old Pamela Diane Cheverier, who was flown to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with serious injuries, while the left rear seat passenger, Woodham, 19, suffered severe trauma during the crash.
“She succumbed to her injuries while en route to the hospital,” Mier noted. “An emergency C-Section was performed in an attempt to save her baby. However, the baby also died as a result of injuries sustained during the crash.”
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