Missing St. Augustine man identified as victim of crash

Vladimir Zripko, 81, struck by vehicle last week, identified by ME Monday

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A missing elderly man in St. Augustine was identified Monday as the victim of a fatal pedestrian crash last week, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

Vladimir Zripko, 81, who was last seen at his home on Camden Cay Drive, was killed Nov. 20 on U.S. 1 South in St. Johns County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers said Zripko, who was identified by the medical examiner on Monday, was sitting in a southbound lane near South Shores Boulevard about 2:10 a.m. when he was struck by a Kia Soul and then a second car.

Zripko died at the scene. There were no other injuries. Both drivers remained and cooperated with investigators.

Zripko's fiancée, 70-year-old Joan Newberger, said he was the love of her life. She said they would often spend time together in Zripko's home. 

"He (Zripko) put an ad in the paper saying that he's looking for a woman that's, like, in her 60s that likes to dance, likes to eat out, likes to go on cruises," Newberger said. "We enjoyed our lives." 

Newberger said Zripko was supposed to meet her family for the first time this Thanksgiving, but last Saturday would be the last time she would see her fiance when she dropped him off at his home.

"I didn't report it because I thought that he went off with a friend or something, because he said he was going to go away for a few days," Newberger said. 

Newberger said she'll never forget the memories the two created and she'll always remember his giving heart. 

"He was wonderful to me," Newberger said. "Everyone loved him even though he was kind of different, but everyone loves him, I loved him, (a) wonderful man."

Zripko’s neighbors said they didn’t know him well, but would often see him take his daily walk through the neighborhood.

“We would recognize him walking down the street a lot,” Zripko’s neighbor Jennifer Wills-Sawyer said.  “He looked disheveled. He was wearing a gray hoodie most of the time.”

Wills-Sawyer said she noticed Tuesday that Zripko hadn’t made his daily walk, and expressed her concern for his safety. Wills-Sawyer said she believes Zripko showed early signs of dementia.

“People who don't recognize what the early signs of dementia are have been asking, ‘Where could he have gone?'" Wills-Sawyer said. “Even my husband went out and started looking in the woods around our house to see if he could see anything.”

Newberger said she is planning for Zripko's funeral to be at his home.