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.
BMW’s, wow…Case of ‘AFFLUENZA’ might be the cause. SMH
Ken Dodge says
Sergio not happy, Steven not happy, Brennan not happy, FPL not happy, City of Palm Coast not happy . . .. ain’t nobody happy.
Nancy N. says
THANK YOU for printing this Flagler Live. We passed through this accident scene (or rather, had to turn around and head back south on Belle Terre because the area was impassable) before emergency vehicles even arrived. It was very scary. Debris everywhere and the one BMW was so far off the road you couldn’t even see it down in the ditch, just the hole that it had made in the fence and the destroyed light pole.
And, once we saw the Sheriff’s report on it, it was also enraging. We live less than a block off of Belle Terre on one of the nearby cross streets, and of course must drive this area frequently as a result. This stretch of Belle Terre is well-known as a drag strip – we hear the revving engines and loud, supped up cars that are obviously traveling well over the speed limit at least several times a week in late evening. WE NEED MORE ENFORCEMENT, before these idiots kill an innocent bystander. That same light pole and section of fence was destroyed in the July 4th accident that killed a motorcyclist that drove straight through the corner and hopped the curve – the BMW wiped out the memorial from that incident in the new crash. When one crash is wiping out a memorial from a previous one…you’ve got a problem on that stretch of road!
Jon Hardison says
What abilities were they testing? Did the BMWs pass?
This is why every kid’s first car should be a Smart Car. A bright yellow and neon green smart car with pink polkadots and giant hello kitty stickers. That’d put an end to this kind of thing instantly.
Mary C. says
I think with all the accidents that you have at this light, maybe you should consider having speed traps around there. Then maybe that will cut down on some of the speeding, just a thought.
These drag races or just drag show off have to stop. It is a real hair rising concern to hear them also in Palm Coast Parkway east of I-95 too often and specially on Friday’s thru Sunday’s late night !! Never mind peoples and wild life lives to these show off young and no so young irresponsible drivers. Our deputies need to be out there ticketing these individuals.
That crash site was my brother’s. He was the motorcyclist killed on July 4th. That pole was so much more than a light pole to so many. If you look closely, you see a balloon from Greg’s birthday; December 26…same day the accident happened. I just can’t even believe this right now :(
James w says
It should be wreckless driving and it should be a felony. A little jail time. Probation classes, these kids were inches from killing someone. A car is a deadly weapon. Lock them up for a night and let them bond out and go through the whole legal carousel like everyone else. Lucky kids.
Drivers Ed says
No driver license until you turn 21 and prove you not a danger to society.
The problem is not the road but rather the drivers doing stupid things on the road. Thousands use it everyday with no problems. To bad this happened but it could have easiloy been avoided. Yes?
This is absolutely insane. I am so thankful that these kids made it through the horrific accident and no young lives were taken in such an act. Too many kids acting out and not enough kids following the right path anymore, it sure is a shame.
Wow, when I was a teenager the only car I could afford was an old used Chevy and I worked all the time
I guess he should have splurged for that brake job that they said he needed
Young and dumb live and learn you are lucky you did not kill yourselves
I have grown up around drag racing (there is a huge difference between drag racing and street racing just so everyone knows).To the people saying that everyone’s first car should be a smartcar with “polkadots and hello kitty stickers”, not every person is like these idiots. I am restoring a classic muscle car with my grandpa and I’m going to start driving his drag car next year. The difference between me and these kids is that I know very well not to street race. If someone wants to race me, we can take our cars down to Orlando dragway for a sunday night test and tune.
Pat Patterson says
If the parents of these two immature children do not remove these deadly weapons from their sons until they are 21 and prove they are responsible and mature enough to own their deadly weapons, they are failing their sons and the public. Hard to believe racing on a public road is a misdemeaner.
just saying says
drivers ed: even if they were 21, and wanted to “test the abilities” what would have changed?
These Two Stooges have also raced down Florida Park Drive starting at Forest Hill Drive in a straightaway to Foster Lane. Using both the North and Southbound lanes of course.
THE VOICE OF REASON says
Other than governmental agencies (city hall, courts, etc) most parking lots are private property and as long as they owned the property or had permission, I think police would have trouble enforcing that portion of the statute.
If I own a business and want to have a drag race at midnight on my parking lot, they have no right to tell me I can’t.
Take it to the track, I’ll eat your lunch, “racing” BMW’s, snork…
Should read… Assault on city with a deadly weapon!!!
I was raised by a single father. A single father who raised both of us girls, and was also a “gear-head”. We were always at the races, mud bogs, truck pulls. Dad built and still does build his own engines and motors. Alot of stuff with nitrous. One thing he did instill in all of us..he went on to remarry and have another girl and 3 boys, when I was a teen, was to respect vehicles, the road, and other peoples lives. We all love racing, so Dad would take us to the drag strip, and we would do street class, which anyone could do. You want to race your car, see what it’s capable of, or just feel the adrenaline rush, go to the local race track when they have street classes, or mod street class, and do it safely and responsiblely. Don’t put others at risk over something so stupid. Many things could happen, that you cannot control, while racing on public streets..
Derrick R says
So many upset over the reckless conduct of speeding. Rightfully so as speed kills 2nd to driving under the influence. Now might be a good time to take it by the implication of speed cameras and unlike the last BS contract maybe Landon can draw up a deal that places the majority of money back in Palm Coast , not Tallahassee and the vendors pocket. I mean really think about it a lot of our roadways have people speeding on them all the time. Not just Florida Park and Other roads how many of us have been tooling around town driving 5 or so over only to be passed by another zooming by at 65/70 mph. Doesn’t matter if it’s BELLE TERRE, White View, Old Kings, 100 , Matanzas, Palm Coast Parkway, Covert, Bird of Paradise, Pine Lakes or Florida Park Dr. Bump that penalty up to 250.00 and make it so that the state and vendor have to fight for a 100.per ticket & we keep the 150.00 . Bet there be a lot less speeding taking place if you put a few cameras evey few or more blocks on each road. Then use that found money to offset our property taxes and fund the dial a bus. Just imagine folks wouldn’t be slamming on the breaks last second at intersections or getting rear ended stopping at them. But would actually be forced to drive the entire roadway in a responsible manner.
Maybe it takes a death or two for Flagler County to get tough in speeding and stop this nonsense on our roads day in and day out. The people I observe speeding are either young boys in their toys, white men in their bubba trucks, or black women hauling butt going somewhere in a hurry. I know its gruesome, but maybe a few have to die to make the county react and to fix this mess. Its a fact, speed kills.
play stupid game-win stupid prize!
pole 1-bmw -0