A Florida Highway Patrol report released Friday about the fatal traffic accident between Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast and a Brookville's pedestrian on U.S. 19 north of Weeki Wachee concluded that the sheriff was not at fault.
Instead, the report concluded that pedestrian Ronnie Heath, 59, contributed greatly to his own death and tested positive for alcohol and drugs.
“(Heath’s) level of intoxication would have impaired his normal faculties and his ability to make judgements at the time of the accident,” the report concluded.
“Therefore, it has been determined that … Heath, by his own negligence and violations of Florida State statute, is responsible for the property damage sustained to (Prendergast’s vehicle), and his own unfortunate death,” the report concluded.
The 63-page report showed that blood samples from Heath tested positive for alcohol and had a blood alcohol level of 0.146 g/100ml during the time of the accident. The legal alcohol limit for operating a vehicle in Florida is 0.08 g/100ml.
In addition, the FHP report said that toxicology tests on Heath’s blood detected amphetamine at a level of 83 ng/ml. The blood tests also detected methamphetamine at a level of 1,200 ng/ml.
The report went on to explain that methamphetamine levels of 200 ng/ml to 500 ng/ml in drug abusers have resulted in “violent and irrational behavior.”
According to the report, the FHP also tested a sample of Prendergast’s blood following the accident. No alcohol or drugs were detected in the blood samples, according to the report.
According to the report, Prendergast, who was 62 at the time of the accident, was driving north on U.S. 19 at about 9:10 p.m. Aug. 21 returning to Citrus County when Heath crossed eastbound into the highway. There was no crosswalk.
Prendergast hit Heath with the right, front side of his agency-issued white, Chevy Tahoe. The impact of the collision lifted Health onto the hood and into the right side of the car’s windshield, according to the report. The impact then propelled Heath forward and toward the right shoulder of U.S. 19. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Tahoe’s airbags were not deployed, according to the report.
Following the accident, Prendergast chose not to make any sworn, recorded statements to FHP troopers investigating the accident.
The FHP report and report diagrams showed that Prendergast struck Heath on U.S. 19, 630 feet south of where Woodland Water Boulevard intersects with U.S. 19. The report said that Prendergast stopped north of Woodland Water Boulevard, 728 feet from the collision. Investigating troopers also did not see any skid or brake marks on the road.
Heath was wearing dark clothing, according to the report. The accident left Heath with several broken bones, lacerations and an evisceration.
The report also concluded that Heath had a clear view of northbound traffic and there were no obstructions that would have kept him from seeing oncoming traffic. The report also said that the investigating trooper detected a strong odor of alcohol on Heath’s body. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the FHP report, Tamara Celeste Boozer was driving about three car lengths behind Prendergast. She told FHP investigators she was driving about 63 mph and it appeared Prendergast was driving about the same speed.
She said “the pedestrian appeared to be running toward the east when he was hit by (Prendergast),” the FHP report showed.
The FHP report concluded that based on the collision site and Heath’s final resting spot on the side of the road, Prendergast was traveling between 55.7 mph and 66.7 mph, which is consistent with what Boozer reported. The posted speed limit in the area is 60 mph.
The report also concluded that given Heath’s clothing color and Prendergast’s estimated driving speed, Prendergast could not has seen Heath and reacted earlier in order to have avoided the collision.
An FHP investigator spoke with Heath friends and family members. They said Heath did not appear depressed or suicidal, nor did he have any major life changing events.
The chronicle requested Friday, through his office spokesman, to speak with Prendergast, but did not receive a response.
The Florida Medical Examiner, for Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Seminole and Sumter counties, concluded the cause of death was “multiple blunt force injuries” and the manner of death was an “accident.”