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News Story
Updated: 12/28/2013 08:00:01AM
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Police check out the Honda CRV in a wreck Wednesday on State Road 33. In the background is the Ford Mustang in wreck which was being driven by Steven A. Hamilton who died in the crash.

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Bowden’s grandson killed in traffic wreck

Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden’s grandson was one of two men killed when their car flipped into a small ditch off in Winter Haven, officials said Thursday.

Taylor Jeffrey Bowden, 23, and driver Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, 25, died in the crash, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. A third man in the crash — 22-year-old Robert Lewis Edwards — was rescued after spending hours in water up to his neck.

‘’Our whole family had just celebrated Christmas together in Panama City, as well as celebrated T.J.’s graduation from Florida State just three weeks ago,’’ Bobby Bowden said in a statement released by the University of Akron, where son Terry is the football coach. “We will cherish those last memories together with T.J. forever.’’

T.J. Bowden was the son of Jeff Bowden, a former Florida State assistant coach under his father who is now on brother Terry’s staff at Akron.

‘’I can’t express the grief I feel right now,’’ Jeff Bowden said in a statement. ‘’Please keep us in your prayers.’’

A trash collector reported the submerged car at 7:47 a.m. The Mitsubishi wasn’t very visible from the road, but the Florida Refuse truck was high enough to allow the worker to see it.

At first, Winter Haven police, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics and the sheriff’s office dive team who responded couldn’t find survivors. The front end of the care was completely submerged, while part of the back end was sticking up out of the water.

More than three hours later, dive team members in the water heard noises coming from in the car. They were able to communicate with Edwards, who said he was cold and needed help. After several minutes, Edwards was out of the water and he was being treated for hypothermia and other injuries at a hospital.

The dive team then located the bodies of Bowden and De Aguiar Valim.

The details of the crash were being investigated, but alcohol appears to be a factor, the sheriff’s office reported.

Deputies have attempted to talk to Edwards about what happened but said he wasn’t lucid. It appears that the car was heading north on Country Club Road when it cross the southbound lane, crashed through a fence, went down an embankment and came to a rest upside down in the water.

Bobby Bowden led the Seminoles from 1976 to 2009. The 84-year-old holds the NCAA Division I record for career wins and bowl victories and won two national championships.

In September 2004, Bobby Bowden’s grandson, 15-year-old Bowden Madden, and former son-in-law, John Allen Madden, were killed when their car was hit a by a utility truck that was helping to restore power outages caused by Hurricane Frances.

Man tells police car stolen

Moises Berrios Franceschi, 27, of 2401 ½ Everett St., Lakeland, was charged Dec. 15 with giving a false report to a law enforcement officer and leaving the scene of an accident after he allegedly told officers his car was stolen from the Bartow Civic Center, the Bartow Police Department reported.

At 9:15 p.m. Dec. 15 Bartow police were told by Franceschi that his white 2000 Ford Crown Victoria was missing from the Bartow Civic Center. He said he lost his keys at a company party he attended Dec. 14 and at about 10:30 p.m. he left the car at the civic center, police reported.

When Franceschi went back to the civic center the next morning the car was missing, he told police.

While investigating, police discovered the car was involved in a hit-n-run crash at 1530 S. Floral Ave. at 11:08 p.m. Dec. 14 and a man was seen walking away wearing a red long sleeve shirt.

Police contacted Franceschi on the phone and he responded to the police department. Franceschi was told the car was involved in the wreck and he spontaneously said, “The vehicle wasn’t stolen. I’m the one who crashed the vehicle and left because I was scared.” Franceschi then spontaneously said that he left the Christmas party at he civic center and went north on South Broadway. He failed to make the curve at Myrtle Street causing the car to crash into the fence and then a tree at 1530 S. Floral. He also said that his brother-in-law was also in the vehicle but was not injured in the crash, police reported.

Man accused of giving false information

A 49-year-old man who twice gave police incorrect information about himself after he was stopped for running a red light, Bartow Police reported.

The man was arrested for giving false information to a police officer, driving with a revoked license and it was discovered there were three warrants out for his arrest, police reported.

On Dec. 14 a Bartow police officer saw a 1999 white Dodge Ram with Georgia plates driving on U.S. 17 and it made a turn onto Van Fleet Drive when the light was red, police reported.

When the car was pulled over, the driver told officers he did not have a driver’s license on him when asked and when he was asked for his name and date of birth he said Jimmy Jones and Feb. 7, 1965. A check of those items came back with no return, police reported. Returning to the Dodge Ram, the officer asked for the driver’s Social Security number. That also came back with no record, police reported.

On a third visit the driver said his name was Gerald McCormick and his birth date was Sept. 9, 1964. This time it came back with his picture and that his driver’s license is revoked and there are two warrants for his arrest in Georgia an done from Lake County, Fla., police reported.

Man killed in traffic wreck

A 49-year-old Polk City resident died Wednesday on State Road 33 in a car wreck that closed the road for several hours on Christmas, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reports.

Around 3 p.m. a gold 2005 Honda CRV being driven by 20-year-old Nidaeus Sierra from Polk City was traveling north on S.R. 33 North near the intersection with Grimes Road in Polk City when Sierra had to brake hard to avoid hitting a car that had stopped suddenly in front of him, according to reports.

At that time, a burgundy 1999 GMC Yukon that was behind the Honda heading north and being driven by 28-year-old Sheena Star of Lakeland swerved to the right and into the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid hitting the Honda, reports say. Star was unable to avoid a collision and her car struck the rear of the Honda and entered into the path of a red 2009 Ford Mustang which was heading south on S.R. 33, being driven by Stephen A. Hamilton, 49, of 6675 Sugar Bush Lane, Polk City.

As a result of the crash, Sheena Star and her 5-year-old daughter, Shemir, had to be cut from the Yukon by Polk Fire/EMS. Sheena, who was not wearing a seat belt, was airlifted to LRMC with injuries, police reported. Shemir was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando with serious injuries. She was strapped in a child booster seat.

Hamilton was declared dead on-scene. He was not wearing a seat belt but his airbags deployed, the sheriff’s office reported.

Sierra did not suffer any injuries. He and his passenger, 18-year-old Justina Nieves of Polk City, were both wearing seat belts, the sheriff’s office reported.

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