Witnesses question why sirens weren't on in deputy-involved crash
Fox 4 News Staff
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
CREATED Mar. 4, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Ohio natives John and Marilyn Steffen lay dying in a crash on Sunday when a Lee County cruiser T-boned their Cadillac.
"I've never seen nothing like this happen," said witness Eddie Rivera.
His friend, Robert Walker, agreed, "It was so hit so bad, that the fire department couldn't even open the door," he said. Rivera and Walker were on their way to get something to eat together, when the crash happened in front of them.
Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) says the couple was attempting to make a left turn from Mississippi Avenue onto Palm Beach Boulevard. Deputy Roberto Torres was on duty.
"The deputy's vehicle was responding to a call with emergency lights on," confirmed Lt. Greg Bueno, a spokesman with FHP.
Which seemed odd to witnesses watching the scene from a nearby supermarket.
"The police car they had the lights on [but] no sirens whatsoever," added Rivera.
According to Florida law, both lights and sirens must be on when emergency vehicles are responding to one. The Lee County Sheriff's Office policy mirrors this.
"When we're in emergency operations, lights and sirens are utilized," said Lt. Larry King, a spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
But what qualifies as an emergency varies by agency. Lee County sets its own guidelines.
"A lights and siren call would maybe be an occupied burglary, a robbery situation, violent felony crimes," offered Lt. King, as examples.
Bringing us back to Sunday's fatal crash. The type of call Torres was headed to is unclear.
"Was he responding to a 911 call?," asked Sarann to Lt. King. "That would be my understanding, yes."
But exactly what type of call is unknown. Deputies say they won't release that because it's part of FHP's investigation.
"What type of call was Torres responding to?" pressed Sarann. "We can't get into the specifics of the call at this point," replied Lt. King.
Detectives say when FHP's investigation is complete, they'll take it from there. And they say Torres has been released from the hospital and will return to work later this week.