1. Archive

2 die when auto is hit by fleeing stolen car

A stolen car fleeing Winter Haven police Tuesday afternoon slammed head-on into another car on a winding, two-lane road, killing a man and a woman from Fort Myers.

William Currens, 70, and Colleen M. Stevens, 25, died in the crash on Lucerne Park Road, a heavily traveled street connecting to U.S. 27.

Police said the two Winter Haven men in the stolen car escaped serious injury and were caught by officers as they ran from the crash.

Police identified them as Aaron Lamar Brown, 20, and the driver, Benjamin Ray Smith, 17. They were each charged with two counts of manslaughter and one count of auto theft.

Winter Haven police, like other police in Polk County, have a policy that an officer must end a chase that could endanger the lives of other motorists or pedestrians.

Police said initial indications were that Officer Jimmy Osborne followed police procedure and ended the chase, but that Smith drove on recklessly, speeding and passing other cars on curves.

The chase began shortly after 12:53 p.m. when Osborne saw two men in a gray 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Osborne ran a computer check on the license tag and was told the car was stolen in Lakeland during the weekend.

He turned on his emergency lights and Smith pulled over, Osborne told investigators, but when Osborne got out of his patrol car, Smith sped off.

Osborne gave chase, according to police. But when Smith started driving erratically, according to police Maj. Mary Mariani, Osborne shut off his emergency lights, slowed down and continued to follow behind the fleeing Oldsmobile.

A few seconds later Osborne came around a curve and saw the aftermath of the collision.

Witnesses told investigators the 1986 Oldsmobile didn't make the curve and slammed head-on into Currens' green 1997 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale.