Race Between 2 Boys “Testing Abilities” of Their BMWs Up Belle Terre Ends in Crash and Injury
FlaglerLive | December 30, 2015
Most wrecks are caused by driver error, inattention, distraction, drunkenness or, in some cases, sheer accident. Some wrecks are caused by reckless driving, usually from excessive speeding, a form of willful disregard for the safety of others (and oneself) on the roads. And some wrecks are a combination of some of these factors, plus stupidity.
You’ll judge for yourself in what category falls the wreck that unfolded on Belle Terre Parkway and ended in a ditch the night of Dec. 26, sending a 17 year old to the hospital, and totaling one of the two BMWs involved.
The incident involved Steven Zapata, a 17-year-old resident of Cottage Way in Palm Coast, and Brian D. Rodrigues, 18, of Firethorn Lane in Palm Coast. Each man (or boy) was at the wheel of a BMW—Rodrigues driving a 2001 model, Zapata driving a model two years younger. Both were silver-colored four-door vehicles. Zapata had one passenger: Brennen Labonte (or Laponte, depending on which part of the crash report you look at), the only one of the three who ended up in the hospital.
Zapata and Rodrigues were racing their BMWs. They were racing north on Belle Terre when the incident unfolded near Belle Terre Elementary at 10:45 p.m. the night after Christmas.
According to a Flagler County Sheriff’s crash report, Zapata was in the right lane, Rodrigues in the left. According to two witnesses who were driving north at the same time, they saw the two cars speed past them, with the older BMW in the lead as they were passing by the witnesses’ car, and with Zapata’s BMW immediately shifting back to the right lane after passing the witnesses.
The two BMWs were then coming to a slight left bend in the road, the crash report states—based on the witnesses’ account—when Rodrigues slowed down. Zapata overtook him, only to lose control of the car and apply the brakes in an attempt to regain control. Zapata’s BMW then struck the curb with its rear tire and began to spin. Zapata tried to counter-steer, the report states, and while spinning, hopped a curb and smashed into a Florida Power and Light utility pole, knocking it completely over, and continuing to spin. Zapata’s BMW then struck a railing along the road and went into a ditch, coming to a stop facing south.
Zapata was reportedly not hurt, and cleared by Rescue 21. Brennen was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler, where he later told a deputy that he remembered the car was going 86 and that the boys were, in his words, “testing the abilities of the BMWs.”
Testing the abilities of the BMWs injured Brennen, totaled one of the two vehicles, caused an estimated $15,000 in damages to FPL, and $5,000 in damages to the city’s railing, according to the crash report.
It also resulted in citations for each of the two drivers for “driving a vehicle in a race,” a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no less than $500 and up to $1,000, and the revocation of the driver’s license for one year, if the driver is convicted. (The law states that a driver may not “Drive any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, in any race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on any highway, roadway, or parking lot.”)
The crash report notes that Zapata was speeding, operating the car in a “careless or negligent manner” and in an “erratic, reckless or aggressive manner.” Zapata did not own the car, which was registered to Sergio Zapata. It was removed by John’s Towing.