Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

David Jolly was the driver in a 1989 accident that killed a pedestrian

Republican congressional candidate David Jolly was the driver in a fatal car accident at the age of 16.

He was not charged with any violation, but 25 years later someone has been anonymously trying to drum up publicity about the Friday night in June 1989.

Jolly and a female friend headed to University Square Mall, stopped later at Dunkin' Donuts and then cruised toward his home in Dade City.

Tragedy came in a split second.

Driving his father's blue Crown Victoria on rural Bruce B. Downs Boulevard at about 55 mph, Jolly suddenly spotted two people walking on the side of the road at 9:30 p.m. He fatally struck 30-year-old Blair W. Ropes from behind, according to an investigation report.

"It was a human tragedy that occurred when I was a young man," Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. "A man lost his life, a family lost a loved one. And that storyline has no business in a political campaign. My intent is to honor the family that has lost someone dear to them and it's not something we will be talking about further.

"The public records have been there for 25 years. I question the motivation of somebody that's now brought this forward. This was a tragedy. We owe nothing but our sadness and condolences to the family. And I don't intend to talk about this during this campaign."

Jolly is in a heated race for Pinellas County's open Congressional District 13 seat. He faces Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a March 11 special election.

"This is a tragic story," said Ashley Walker, Sink's campaign manager. "Our campaign had no involvement in giving this information to the press. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on it further."

The Times received an anonymous note about the incident in the past week. A Times news story from 1989 failed to surface in earlier coverage of Jolly's campaign because it misspelled his name as Jolley.

Ropes, owner of a lawn care business, had been riding his motorcycle with a friend, Sandra Vendl, toward University Square Mall, but the motorcycle broke down. They began walking northbound in the northbound lane, according to a Florida Highway Patrol investigation report.

The report says Ropes died at the scene after landing on Jolly's windshield and hood and being thrown 147 feet onto the pavement. After impact, the report says, Jolly "did not stop but drove north to SR-54 and summoned emergency personnel to the scene. After having done this, he returned to the scene."

The investigator concluded that Ropes was at fault for walking on the pavement rather than the shoulder of the road. Vendl was cited for failing to walk on the shoulder facing traffic.

The report did not fault Jolly. Investigators said Ropes was wearing dark clothing and would have been difficult to see.

Kent Ropes, the brother of Blair Ropes, recalled for the Times that some family members questioned whether authorities declined to charge Jolly with any violation because Jolly's father was a prominent Baptist minister in east Pasco. "My mother was quite upset about it and thought more should have been done, but the way I thought about it was that it wouldn't bring my brother back so let the Lord handle it," said Ropes, who now lives in Homosassa and said he has forgiven Jolly and hopes he learned something from the accident.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

David Jolly was the driver in a 1989 accident that killed a pedestrian 02/25/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.