ST. PETE BEACH — The owner of a car that ripped through two Pass-a-Grille yards early Saturday, severing a palm tree and ejecting a teen, faces increasing questions about her behavior the night of the accident.
Rachel Bolinder, 33, says she has been barraged by threats of legal action from the parents of the three teens who were in the car with her 15-year-old daughter, Megan Ault.
She says she's been questioned about hanging out with teenagers at 5 a.m., and whether drinking contributed to the crash.
Bolinder says that her motives and actions were sound and that she doesn't want to be portrayed as "dumb-dumb woman," as she has been in anonymous reader comments on the St. Petersburg Times Web site, tampabay.com.
One teenager is in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center, but little information beyond that has been made public. Five days after the accident, police have not revealed the identities of the four teens in the car.
Police Chief David Romine says his department is "neck-deep'' in a criminal investigation with "too many loose ends."
Bolinder, meanwhile, is pleading for calm. "We as adults need to step back," she said. "It could have been my daughter hurt in that crash, too." She said her daughter and three other teens — Michael Cannon and two boys she knows only as "Wade" and "Sean" — were visiting St. Pete Beach on Friday night when they were befriended by two men.
The group spent much of the evening at a nearby house, "hanging, watching TV." Bolinder says she does not know the men's names or the location of the house. The teens, she said, did not consume alcohol or drugs.
"They weren't using anything or drinking anything, not in front of me," Bolinder said.
Bolinder, who was arrested on a drunken driving charge in 2006, said she had a couple of sips of alcohol around midnight.
Police and fire officials said Monday there were no obvious signs of drug or alcohol use at the scene of the accident at Pass-a-Grille Way and 30th Avenue, and investigating officer Brett Schambach said Monday that no toxicology reports were requested by his department.
Bolinder said after the group spent the evening with the men in St. Pete Beach, they were returning home to St. Petersburg. All five were in her blue Ford Taurus when "Wade" began "bugging" her to drive, Bolinder said.
Bolinder said that after ordering Wade out of the car she decided to use a bathroom, leaving the keys in the ignition. She returned to see her taillights disappearing down a side street.
Bolinder asked the men the teens met earlier to help her find the car. After several turns through St. Pete Beach in their pickup, she said, the Taurus sped by "so fast you wouldn't even know the make of the car."
A few turns later, the truck came upon the accident scene, with the Taurus upside down.
"Already people were out there, an ambulance, police," Bolinder said. Investigators said none of the teens was carrying ID.