ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A driver suspected of being drunk lost control of his truck Tuesday night in St. Augustine, slamming into two pedestrians on a sidewalk and plowing through the wall of a historic cemetery, police said.
St. Augustine police said Justin Lee Edwards, 29, is charged with DUI causing serious bodily injury, DUI causing property damage and reckless driving.
According to his arrest report, Edwards was pulling out of the Tolomato parking lot and lost control, burning out his tires. His truck careened into a man and woman on the sidewalk, pushing them through the concrete wall and fencing surrounding the Tolomato Cemetery, police said.
Robert Mayben said he witnessed the crash on the way to pick up friends and the couple appeared badly hurt.
“He wouldn’t let go of her hand until paramedics and EMTs arrived,” Mayben said of the injured man.
Both of the woman's legs were broken, and she suffered other injuries, police said. She was flown to Orange Park Medical Center. Her boyfriend was treated with stitches for a leg wound at Flagler Hospital and was then flown to OPMC because of a neck injury, police said.
Mayben said he could tell something was wrong when he saw the pickup truck swerving on Cordova Street and called 911 when it hit the wall.
Police said the damage to the historic cemetery's wall and fencing was estimated at $10,000, but a nonprofit that helps take care of the cemetery told News4Jax that the bill could end up being more than that when it’s all said and done.
Debris was scattered inside the cemetery, a concrete column that was partially underground was knocked over and a well-known gravesite was damaged. The headstone belonged to a 5-year-old boy named James who died in the 19th century, but experts said it can be repaired.
The crash closed Cordova Street from Orange to Saragossa streets during the investigation.
Mayben said Edwards seemed remorseful for hitting the couple, "which is not an excuse at all," he added.
Police said Edwards was noticeably drunk, writing in the report that he was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot, his speech was slurred and he smelled strongly of alcohol.
Edwards failed field sobriety exercises, and after the walk-and-turn exercise, he told the officer, "Just put me in the back of the car," the report said.
Police said Edwards refused to provide a breath sample and threw up repeatedly at Flagler Hospital, where he was taken to have a blood sample drawn after police obtained a warrant. The officer said after Edwards vomited, the room smelled like a bar.
The results of the blood sample are pending, but Edwards was charged with the DUIs and booked into the St. Johns County Jail. He is being held on $56,000 bond.
People who live in the area said they’re concerned about over-serving at local bars.
During Monday night’s City Commission meeting, St. Augustine Police Chief Barry Fox said, “The alcohol consumption is causing us a problem in the downtown area.”