Wrong-way driver, 99, passed exam before killing teens
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A 99-year-old man killed two teenagers in a head-on crash by driving his RV at night without headlights on the wrong side of a Florida highway, investigators say — and records show he recently passed a re-examination in his home state of Michigan that allowed him to keep his driver’s license.
Michigan driving records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press show that someone reported Walter Roney to state motor vehicle officials in September, recommending the Dearborn resident be re-examined to determine whether he was still competent even though he had no recent accidents or tickets.
He passed that test Jan. 8, 29 days before Tuesday night’s crash in Fort Pierce that killed Santia Feketa, 18, and Britney Poindexter, 17. The best friends were on their way to a skating rink.
According to Michigan officials, drivers who are re-examined may be required to pass a driving test and tests of their vision, road sign and law knowledge to keep their license. They can also have restrictions such as a ban on night-time driving implemented.
Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state’s office, which oversees driver’s licenses, would not say who flagged Roney’s ability to drive, citing confidentiality policies. He said referrals typically come from law enforcement, a family member or a medical professional.
He said the re-examination determined Roney had an acceptable medical condition. Woodhams declined to specify what the condition was, citing privacy laws, and could not say what tests Roney was given.
“He was able to demonstrate to the department at the re-examination that whatever the question was, he had addressed it,” Woodhams said.
According to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alvaro Feola, Roney and his 75-year-old girlfriend, Carolyn Elizabeth-Evans Bruns of Brighton, Michigan, were driving Tuesday from Melbourne on Florida’s Atlantic coast, where property records show Roney owns a condo. They were headed to Port Charlotte on the state’s Gulf Coast to have interior electrical issues with their RV repaired, Feola said. They exited Interstate 95 in Fort Pierce shortly before 7 p.m., with Roney taking over the driving from Bruns.
Somehow, Feola said, Roney headed west in the eastbound lanes of Florida 70, a four-lane highway that crosses the state. Feola said it does not appear the RV’s headlights were turned on, although Bruns told investigators they had been working when she was driving.
Feketa was driving east in her 2013 Chevrolet Silverado with Poindexter in the passenger seat when Roney’s RV smashed into them. TCPalm reports Feketa had taken classes at the local community college before graduating from high school in June, and was already a college junior working toward becoming a kindergarten teacher.
Poindexter, a high school junior, competed in equestrian barrel racing and was involved in the 4-H Club.
Roney suffered critical injuries. He and Bruns remain hospitalized. A man who answered at a Michigan phone number linked to a Roney relative declined to comment when contacted Thursday and hung up.
This story corrects that Roney is 99, not 98. A previous version cited incorrect information from the Florida Highway Patrol.
Eggert reported from Lansing, Michigan.