Rays minor-league pitcher Matt Bush got in a hit-and-run accident three hours before police arrested him in North Port in March on charges of a second DUI hit-and-run crash involving a motorcycle, according to Venice Police records.
Bush, 26, is in Charlotte County jail facing seven charges stemming from his North Port crash, which occurred around 5 p.m. and resulted in serious injuries to 72-year-old motorcyclist Tony Tufano. When arrested, Bush told police he also hit a pole earlier that day in Sarasota, but he didn't mention another crash in Venice that happened first.
According to a Venice police department report, at around 2:20 p.m., Bush attempted to make an illegal U-turn, and he sideswiped a vehicle owned by Nelson Chaffee, a 70-year-old from Massachusetts who had stopped at a red light on SR 45A northbound.
The report states Bush fled the scene on a U.S. 41 bypass. The Venice Police department issued an "attempt to locate" order on Bush's vehicle, based on information given by the victims, which described the driver as a "dark-skinned male in his 20s wearing a hat and driving a black SUV" and included several numbers off the Maryland license tag.
Bush was driving the Dodge Durango of a Rays teammate, minor-leaguer Brandon Guyer.
Chaffee was driving his Jeep Cherokee with his wife, Judy, in the passenger seat, he told the Tampa Bay Times, when he was going north on U.S. 41 and saw Bush's SUV — which he estimated was going 70 mph (in the 35 mph speed zone) — "nearly hit a car in the right lane" before pulling into a left turn lane at the intersection at Venice Avenue. Chaffee said he pulled up next to Bush, looked at him then looked straight ahead and waited for the light to change.
When Bush's light changed, Chaffee said, Bush backed up and angled his car directly at his, hitting the rear door before making the illegal U-turn and going southbound on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail).
Chaffee, who spends the winters in Florida, said neither he nor his wife was hurt and that they just had to replace the rear door.
"I must have angered him," Chaffee said.
Just more than an hour later, around 3:30 p.m., the Sarasota County Sheriff's office advised Venice police that the State College of Florida just had a hit-and-run that involved the Durango, which fled the scene southbound after hitting a light pole at 8000 Tamiami Trail. The Sheriff's office filed a non-arrest complaint for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, saying the "light pole had been struck on the campus near the roadway, the light pole was cut in half and there was still multiple black pieces of a vehicle lying on the ground from the impact."
At 5 p.m. Bush was driving the Durango when he hit Tufano's motorcycle and fled the scene, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. With the help of deputies and a helicopter, Bush was located shortly after the accident and arrested. According to FHP, Bush had a blood alcohol percentage of .180, more than twice the level at which Florida presumes that a driver is impaired.
Bush, who has since been put on the restricted list by the Rays, is in Charlotte County jail on $1.015 million bond. The Tufano family has filed a civil lawsuit against Bush and Guyer for $5 million each for damages and pain and suffering resulting in the crash.
Tufano has been moved out of the intensive care unit at Lee Memorial Hospital and is improving, with the possibility he would get released Tuesday night, according to daughter in law Shannon Moore.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.