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Joseph Drenner, 50, Is Killed in Early Morning Wreck on U.S. 1; Companion Survives

| May 18, 2013

The 1997 Toyota SUV rolled and spun before ending up in a ditch, facing south, off the northbound lanes of U.S. 1 in Palm Coast. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The 1997 Toyota SUV rolled and spun before ending up in a ditch, facing south, off the northbound lanes of U.S. 1 in Palm Coast. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Christina Laming, 41, and Joseph T. Drenner, 50, had been together five years, and were living out of their car, and out of a storage facility in St. Augustine. Many of their possessions were in their 1997 Toyota SUV, including a dog.

Early Saturday morning–just after 1 a.m.—Laming was at the wheel of the Toyota, driving north on U.S. 1 in Palm Coast. Drenner and the dog were in the back seat, possibly asleep. Immediately after passing Otis Stone Hunter Road, the dividing line between Palm Coast and Bunnell, Laming lost control. Marks on the road and the dewy grass tell the story. She swerved onto the median, over-corrected, swerved back across the two northbound lanes and flipped violently. The SUV ended up in a waterlogged ditch, on the driver’s side, facing south.

Drenner had been ejected. He was killed. His body was under the car when authorities arrived. Laming survived, apparently uninjured. So did the dog.

The Florida Highway Patrol called a wrecker to lift the vehicle in order to retrieve Drenner’s body. “They didn’t want the poor soul’s remains to be damaged,” John’s Towing’s John Rogers said at the scene, as the operation was carried out just before dawn. “It’s a shame, because life is just a vapor. We’re here one minute, gone the next.”

Authorities are suspicious of the circumstances of the crash. Laming was read her rights–as all individuals involved in car crashes are before they are interviewed by police–but she refused to provide a blood sample to judge impairment. That used to be routine. Authorities could and did draw blood at will in serious and fatal crashes.


But one month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a warrant is required before drawing blood from a suspected drunk driver, at the scene or at the hospital. The decision divided the court, with some justices saying a warrant was required in most instances and dissenters saying police should either obtain a warrant if the circumstances permit it or go ahead with blood-drawing in prevent evidence from vanishing.

“Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances,” a justice in the majority opinion wrote, stressing that electronic means now make it much easier to obtain warrants promptly. “Nothing in the Fourth Amendment requires officers to allow evidence essential to enforcement of drunk-driving laws to be destroyed while they wait for a warrant to issue,” a justice wrote in dissent.

At the U.S. 1 scene, Florida Highway Patrol investigators were still waiting at dawn for a warrant to test Laming, who was in a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy cruiser, resting or sleeping, with her dog. But an inventory of the car had produced items authorities suspect to be drugs, including pipes. Charges are pending against Laming.

The couple’s listed address is Aghata Drive in Deltona. Drenner’s father lives in Deltona, authorities said.

Both northbound lanes on U.S. 1 were closed to traffic at Otis Stone Hunter Road from shortly after the wreck until past sunup. The Palm Coast Fire Police redirected traffic. The Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue had also responded to the scene, along with FHP and the sheriff’s office. Medical Examiner Investigator Kenny Moore and his crew retrieved Drenner’s body at 6 a.m. and took it to St. Augustine for a Monday autopsy.

A Class C wrecker truck was called in to lift the SUV straight up and enable the medical examiner to retrieve Joseph Drenner's body, which had been trapped under the vehicle. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

A Class C wrecker truck was called in to lift the SUV straight up and enable the medical examiner to retrieve Joseph Drenner’s body, which had been trapped under the vehicle. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The Toyota was in a ditch in knee-deep water. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The Toyota was in a ditch in knee-deep water. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The couple is believed to have been living out of the car. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The couple is believed to have been living out of the car. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The SUV after it was pulled from the ditch. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The SUV after it was pulled from the ditch. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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11 Responses for “Joseph Drenner, 50, Is Killed in Early Morning Wreck on U.S. 1; Companion Survives”

  1. PJ says:

    My prayers go out to these folks. Thank God no other cars were in volved.

  2. JL says:

    I think before we are given a license we should have to sign agreement to provide blood sample in all accidents. We waive our right to needing a warrant or we don’t get a license. A license is a priviledge not a right under the constitution. If you are not under the influence what is the worry of having your blood drawn.

    • Brian says:

      I could not agree with you more JL! On your license (at the bottom in FINE PRINT) in clearly states that, “Operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.”

      IMO, that is your waiver to a warrant!

    • Nancy N. says:

      The terms that you are describing being attached to driver’s licenses are exactly the terms that the Court just declared unconstitutional.

      What is the worry of having your blood drawn if you aren’t drunk? For one, because labs make errors. If you, for instance, have one glass of wine with dinner but are not legally over the limit and get in an accident that kills someone and your blood is taken for a mandatory warrantless test – if the blood is mishandled, it can coagulate and raise what the BAC tests at. That mishandling can mean the difference between you not being charged and you spending 15+ years in prison.

      Other things can happen too – samples can be mixed up, lab reports can have errors…If the blood is never taken, none of these things have a chance to happen.

  3. Off The Wall says:

    We are never promised tomorrow.

  4. Glenn says:

    @JL …because blood samples can become tainted even to the innocent. Will you be there to oversee the chain-of- evidence of your sample for testing. Mistakes are made and overzealous police technicians in labs have been known to corrupt evidence.

    Ever go to a blood lab for blood test and urine sample. I have been instructed after giving urine to place it on the counter and I can leave. My name is not on the cup; anyone can tamper with it walking by and God knows how long it sits there?

    Don’t be so quick to give up your rights. We all want to do the right thing but errors are made.

  5. John says:

    She wasn’t impaired with alcohol when driving. She was worried that the authorities would find HTC in her system from marijuana. She passed the breathalyzer on the seen. They were moving all their belongings to their new home in Alabama. This is such a tragedy.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It appears that excessive speed is the instigating factor in many of these rollover accidents. Especially in the SUV models with a inherently high center of gravity. I submit the majority of drivers I see have poor driving skills and disregard speed limits.

  7. Gia says:

    Law & justice sucks. police should be able to have blood sample no matter what. Drug & alcohol & speed, what do you expect. No sorry. Lucky they did.’nt kill anybody else.

  8. Sondra says:

    She was not drunk! She fell asleep at the wheel. They were moving their things to their new home they just got 3 days before this tragic accident. That’s just what it was an accident. Everyone that thinks its ok to judge and bash the poor girl. This could have been you. Maybe you should think about that before you go saying things you have no idea about. I pray this never happens to any of you that are so quick to judge her. She has to live with this the rest of her life. Prayers are with you Chris.

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