John and Marilyn Steffen. / Special to The News-Press
The Florida Highway Patrol reported today that the driver of a car involved in a double fatal crash with a Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputy in March violated the deputy’s right-of-way which led to the crash.
The report absolves Deputy Robert Torres of responsibility in the crash and states that he did have emergency lights activated and was intermittently using an audible siren.
The accident happened shortly before 9:30 a.m. March 3 when John Steffen turned his 2003 Cadillac DeVille left onto Palm Beach Boulevard from Mississippi Avenue and into the path of Torres’ cruiser.
Steffen, 84, died at the scene. His wife, Marilyn, 77, died en route to Lee Memorial Hospital.
The FHP said their investigation showed Steffen stopped at the intersection of Palm Beach and then accelerated into the intersection, began a left turn and violated Torres’ right-of-way.
Torres had been eastbound in the outside lane of Palm Beach, approaching the intersection of Mississippi Avenue and was traveling with its emergency lights activated and intermittently using an audible siren, while responding to a 911 call.
The FHP said Torres swerved left in an attempt to avoid Steffen and then collided with him within the inside, eastbound lane of Palm Beach when the front center of the cruiser collided with the left center of Steffan’s Cadillac.
The FHP report said Steffen received fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at 9:29 a.m., at the scene. His wife received life-threatening injuries and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased at 9:59 a.m.
The report conclude that Steffen violated a Florida State Statute regarding traffic right-of-ways.
The FHP investigation concluded that Deputy Torres was operating under the authority of the Sheriff's Office to a confirmed 911 call and was found to be in violation of no Florida State Statutes.