FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Hours after a woman sunbathing on a Nassau County beach was run over Tuesday afternoon, police arrested the man they believe was driving the Jeep that hit her and kept going.
The hit-and-run happened about 1:30 p.m. in an area just east of where the sand drops off toward the ocean at Seaside Park near Sadler Road.
According to the Fernandina Beach Police Department, a 53-year-old Akron, Ohio, woman was run over by a silver Jeep Cherokee. The woman, identified as Susan Jakuszewski, was taken to UF Health Jacksonville to be treated for three broken ribs and a blood clot in her chest. She was listed in good condition at last check.
Police said the driver of the Jeep took off despite being told by a witness that he had run over a sunbather.
"The lady said, 'Stop. That guy just ran over me.' He got stuck right here. He just kept trying to go up, but one of the witnesses came over and said, 'Did you know you just ran someone over?' And he just kept going," Jessica Davila, who witnessed the incident from about 30 feet away, told News4Jax.
The Jeep was identified by its Florida tag and tracked to a home on Pirate's Way, less than a mile from where the woman was hit on the beach. Police said they learned that the owner of the Jeep arrived just minutes before officers and hurried to park his vehicle in the garage of the house next door. The man refused to respond to police attempts to talk to him for more than an hour but eventually agreed to come outside when asked by the homeowner, according to police.
After he was questioned, police arrested Gregory Lee Green on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries. He was ordered held on $50,000 bond.
Based on witness accounts and evidence at the scene, investigators believe the Jeep was traveling east toward the ocean and bounded off the raised sand to the sand below, striking the woman and running over her as she lay on the beach. The driver then accelerated rapidly, turned back to the west and drove toward the beach parking entrance, police said.
Police Department Chief James Hurley told News4Jax on Wednesday that the case remains under investigation.
It was the second time a sunbather was run over by a vehicle in Nassau County. On April 24, according to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, a St. Marys woman was run over by another Jeep while sunbathing at Peters Point Park, a beach access off South Fletcher Avenue in an unincorporated part of Amelia Island. She was taken to Baptist Medical Center Nassau, where she was treated for injuries to her legs.
The two incidents have fueled debate over whether vehicles should be allowed on the beach.
“I don’t think you can see if you’re in a higher-raised vehicle if someone is on the beach," beachgoer Tara Horton said.
The last incident happened just days before the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend, and Hurley is urging beachgoers and drivers to be careful.
"We tell people they should drive directly and safely to the place they plan to park," he said.
The police chief added that drivers should not go over embankments or impressions.
“People often put their blankets in those areas to get out of the sand and that causes these kind of accidents," Hurley said.
Attorney John Phillips, who represents the woman who was run over last month, released the following statement, saying beach driving should be ended if it cannot be done safely, after learning of the second sunbather who had been run over:
"Three weeks ago, we demanded the City of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County issue a moratorium on beach driving if it could not ensure the safety of sunbathers and beachgoers. They ignored our warning. Another life will be forever changed by the crushing weight of a vehicle on top of a woman’s body.
"According to police, another Jeep ran over another guest to our state. The driver of the Jeep fled the scene, even after being told he had run over a woman. This isn’t dissimilar from the hit and run that occurred to our client. That driver still hasn’t been found. This has to stop. As proven by the attached warning, the City of Fernandina and Nassau County has done nothing despite repeated notice of a dangerous condition."