ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Nearly two years after a deadly hit-and-run crash on U.S. 1 in St. Johns County, the Florida Highway Patrol announced Wednesday that a 65-year-old driver has been charged with DUI manslaughter.
Troopers said David Anthony Petrzala’s DUI involved prescription methadone, not alcohol.
“If you’re not taking prescriptions in the appropriate fashion, you can be under the influence of those as well. Even though they prescribed, there is that level of impairment to safely operate the motor vehicle,” FHP Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan said.
According to troopers, Petrzala was under the influence of the drug on U.S. 1 in St. Augustine Shores on Sept. 2, 2020, when he struck a vehicle in the rear, causing it to slam into a culvert and then flip multiple times until it landed on its roof.
Petrzala continued driving about a mile, pulling behind a BB&T Bank to conceal his car, investigators said.
Meanwhile, the two women in the car he’d struck were both ejected when the car flipped, according to the crash report.
The passenger, 79-year-old Dolores Appleby, died at Flagler Hospital about an hour after the crash. The driver, Linda Dobson, who was 61 at the time, was seriously injured.
Witness Kara Holiday described seeing the wreck and someone on the ground.
“She was on her side, and there were a lot of people around kind of panicky,” Holiday said.
According to an obituary for Appleby, Dobson was her niece and caretaker. The obituary said Appleby had just moved to Florida so Dobson could care for her.
According to FHP, witnesses followed Petrzala from the scene of the crash and contacted authorities. He was located by St. Johns County deputies, and he was hospitalized.
Troopers said investigators tracked down Petrzala on the same day in large part due to the eyewitnesses who not only turned over cellphone video but also dashcam footage.
Petrzala was arrested nearly two years later on Aug. 16, 2022, on charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious injury and leaving the scene of a crash involving death and serious injury.
Bryan said while two years might seem like a long time, there are reasons it can take that like to file charges.
“Our investigators work diligently to process investigations, very complex investigations as well. Evidence is taken and analyzed, sent off to different labs and other entities to have results conducted. And then, of course, sent back to us. And that’s the norm in this particular type of case,” Bryan said.
Petrzala’s been arrested at least six times before, including once for DUI.
He’s being held on $500,000 bond in the St. Johns County Jail.