Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Bobby Bowden's grandson one of two killed in Polk crash

The Mitsubishi Lancer plunged into the pond about 2 a.m. Thursday. It settled upside down, its front submerged, its trunk poking out of the water. Three men were trapped inside.

No one saw it go in. No one saw it at all until about six hours later, when refuse workers spotted the black car and called the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies from the dive team arrived. They knocked on the car and yelled. No one answered.

They carefully tried to get out the driver, who was dead. Hours passed.

About 11:45 a.m. — four hours after they had arrived and about 10 hours after the crash — deputies heard a noise from inside the car.

A man in the back seat had survived. He was trapped in water up to his chin. He was suffering from hypothermia and likely had been unconscious for some time.

Deputies pulled Robert Lewis Edwards, 22, out of the car and took him to a hospital.

Then they learned that Lewis had been trapped inside with not only one dead friend, but a second who had been in the front passenger seat.

The Sheriff's Office identified the other passenger as Taylor Jeffrey Bowden, 23, the grandson of former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, 84.

"Our whole family had just celebrated Christmas together in Panama City, as well as celebrated T.J.'s graduation from Florida State just three weeks ago," Bobby Bowden said in a statement Thursday night. "We will cherish those last memories together with T.J. forever."

Deputies identified the driver as Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, 25, of Winter Haven.

According to preliminary information, the crash occurred about 2 a.m. Thursday after the three men had been drinking at Indigo's Bar on U.S. 17 in Winter Haven.

Deputies said the car was traveling north on Country Club Road when it veered from the roadway. It crashed through a wooden fence and over an embankment into the creek. It appears alcohol was a factor, deputies said.

The car could not easily be seen from the road. The trunk and back wheels of the car stuck out from 5 feet of murky creek water, nearly as black as the car itself.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said it took so long for Edwards to be rescued because deputies thought only one person was inside the car, already deceased.

Murky water obstructed the view inside the car and no one responded when deputies banged on the car, trying to get the attention of anyone inside.

"You have to look out for the safety of those who are going in to retrieve the person," Judd said. He said Edwards was "obviously" unconscious because he did not respond for hours, even as divers made multiple dives.

Taylor Bowden was in Winter Haven visiting his mother for the holidays. He had just graduated from Florida State two weeks ago with a bachelor's degree in criminology, family friends said.

Taylor Bowden's father, Jeff Bowden, is a former Florida State coach under Bobby Bowden. Jeff Bowden is now an assistant coach at the University of Akron, where brother Terry Bowden has been the head coach for two years.

A grandson and a former son-in-law of Bobby Bowden also were killed in 2004 when their car was hit by a utility truck helping restore power outages caused by Hurricane Frances.

Information from the Ledger was used in this report. Weston Phippen can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

 
Comments

Truck carrying frozen chickens catches fire on I-75 in Brandon

Southbound lanes on Interstate 75 were closed in Brandon early Tuesday morning after a semi-trailer carrying frozen chickens caught fire.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 52-year-old Brian Keith Jester, of Venice, was driving southbound near S...
Updated: 24 minutes ago

Alaska hit by 7.9 earthquake; tsunami warning canceled

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Alaska’s Kodiak Island early Tuesday, prompting a tsunami warning for a large swath of the state’s coast.Officials at the National Tsunami Center canceled the warning after a few tense hours a...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Male bicyclist struck, killed by vehicle in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A male bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle on U.S. 19 on Monday night, according to Pinellas Park police.The incident took place at about 8:30 p.m. along the 8000 block of U.S. 19 N, near the Walmart Supercenter.The driver wa...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Baby, 11 months, dies in reported drowning at Brandon apartments’ pool

BRANDON — An 11-month-old girl’s parents said their daughter drowned in an apartment complex pond Monday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The infant and her parents were not publicly identified by the Sheriff’s Office. The paren...
Published: 01/22/18
Police release photos of men sought for questioning in Florida mall blast

Police release photos of men sought for questioning in Florida mall blast

LAKE WALES — Police say two devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.According to the FBI, bomb technicians examining the contents of a backpack found at Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales on Sund...
Published: 01/22/18
Something new for Gasparilla — your own private boat captain

Something new for Gasparilla — your own private boat captain

TAMPA — The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates may be this city’s most festive event, but law enforcement maintains its zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving, whether on land or on water.So if you plan on consuming alcohol at the parade, get home ...
Published: 01/22/18
Clearwater police arrest man in taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

Clearwater police arrest man in taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

CLEARWATER — Police officers arrested a 38-year-old man they say robbed a taxi driver at knifepoint Monday morning near Crest Lake Park.According to Clearwater police, Samuel Eric Brown, of Clearwater, stole cash from a driver for United Cab, took th...
Published: 01/22/18
Police: Driver rear-ends school bus in Clearwater

Police: Driver rear-ends school bus in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A driver rear-ended Monday a school bus on the way to Safety Harbor Middle. None of the 38 students on board were hurt in the crash in the eastbound lanes of NE Coachman Road just west of U.S. 19, according to Clearwater police. Most boa...
Published: 01/22/18
Deputies seek hit-and-run driver who seriously injured bicyclist in Plant City

Deputies seek hit-and-run driver who seriously injured bicyclist in Plant City

Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the driver who seriously injured a bicyclist in a hit-and-run crash in Dover on Monday morning.Deputies say the suspect was driving a Toyota Camry that is now missing part of its right front air dam afte...
Published: 01/22/18

Woman, 35, struck and killed while walking across SR 60 in Valrico

VALRICO — A 35-year-old Thonotosassa woman was struck and killed by a car while walking across State Road 60 west of Mount Carmel Road on Sunday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.Brandi Eckelstafer was walking south across SR 60 just after 8 p....
Published: 01/22/18