Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Man arrested in wrong-way Christmas Eve crash that killed three

Authorities have arrested the man they say was drunk and driving the wrong way in Seminole early Christmas morning when he collided with another vehicle, killing three people.

Records show the alleged wrong-way driver, Paul Edward Pulkownik, 51, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.319, or nearly four times the level at which Florida law presumes someone is impaired. The test was performed 90 minutes after the crash.

Pulkownik was arrested Monday afternoon at his Largo home and charged with three counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter, three counts of vehicular homicide and one misdemeanor count of DUI with property damage. He also was issued a citation for driving on the wrong side of the road.

Pulkownik was driving a Ford Explorer in the wrong direction on Park Boulevard about 12:30 a.m. Thursday when he crashed into a car occupied by the Martins family of Largo, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Joao Martins, 84, and his daughter-in-law, Isabel Martins, 58, died that day, troopers said. Joao's wife, Arminda Martins, 82, died Friday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

The Martinses were on their way home from a traditional Christmas Eve celebration when investigators say they were hit by Pulkownik. Pulkownik had just left a friend's house where he had consumed two or three beers, he told authorities at Bayfront Heath St. Petersburg. He was treated for minor injuries after the collision.

Before he was transported to the hospital, Pulkownik was asked to produce his driver's license by a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy. He fumbled through his wallet, according to a search warrant for his truck, and first provided his credit card and then his ID.

His speech was slurred, according to the warrant, and his breath smelled of alcohol. One empty and one full can of Natural Ice beer were found in the Explorer.

Arminda and Joao Martins, known as "John" by family members, were together for 63 years. They emigrated from the same seaside Portuguese village and moved to New Jersey to raise their two sons before retiring to Largo 20 years ago.

Their daughter-in-law Isabel was born in New Jersey and moved to Largo in 1988. She was a customer service representative for Winn-Dixie Supermarket in Seminole.

All three were members of the Portuguese American Suncoast Association, St. Petersburg.

A funeral Mass for all three is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Largo. Afterward, they will be interred at Serenity Gardens Memorial Park, also in Largo.

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report. Katie Mettler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kemettler.

     
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