NAPLES — Former Collier County sheriff’s candidate Victor Ortino and his wife Virginia are recovering from head injuries at home after a motorcycle crash on his birthday.
“I don’t recall the accident,” Ortino said Friday, sounding groggy when reached at home five days after the crash. “We had some serious head damage. We’re hobbling right now. It’s major stitches.”
“We think somebody hit us,” said Ortino, who works as a private investigator. “I don’t remember. We’re still trying to piece it together.”
The crash occurred at 7:49 p.m. Sunday on U.S. 41 North, north of Vanderbilt Beach Road, when Ortino, 51, who was driving southbound, lost control of his 2002 Honda motorcycle and skidded 21 feet, according to a preliminary report by the Florida Highway Patrol.
“The motorcycle turned on its left side, ejecting both occupants,” said Lt. Chris Miller, an FHP spokesman.
Ortino and his wife, 49, ended up on the southbound lane of the roadway, according to the report, which said Ortino was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital by Collier Medflight. Ortino said his wife also suffered injuries and was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
“He had been drinking, but he was not impaired,” Miller said, reading from the preliminary report, which showed no Breathalyzer test was done. “If there were indications he had been impaired, they would have done a road sobriety (test).”
The report doesn’t indicate where that information about drinking came from, but Miller said the trooper could have smelled an odor of alcohol or asked Ortino whether he’d had anything to drink.
The report also doesn’t indicate whether his blood was drawn at the hospital to test for alcohol.
The report by Trooper D.F. Rodriguez attributed the crash to careless driving and showed the skidmarks north of the intersection. Damage to the motorcycle, which was still functional, totaled $1,000.
Neither wore a helmet, the report said, but both had eye protection. The investigation isn’t complete and no charges have been filed. The full crash report must be turned in within 30 days of the Oct. 25 report.
Ortino denied drinking, saying he and his wife went out for a “bite to eat” at Two Brothers Baci cafe, on Imperial Golf Course Boulevard in North Naples, where they had a pasta dinner on his birthday.
“I’m still suffering from bleeding in the left ear,” he said. “We’re going to be fine.”
Later Friday, he contacted the Daily News and said he misunderstood a reporter's question and didn't deny that he'd had alcohol. He reiterated that he doesn't recall anything about the crash.
He has stitches in his left ear and lip, he said. His wife’s face was cut by the motorcycle goggles and she has 20 stitches.
“I can barely walk. My left knee is pretty wrecked up,” he said, adding that they sleep a lot and take Advil for the pain.
He admitted having two helmets.
“My wife wants me to wear one,” he said. “I’ll keep her happy.”
Last month, Ortino, who lost the sheriff’s race by a landslide in September 2008 to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission, alleging that on four occasions Rambosk didn’t reimburse his office for campaign expenses.
The complaint cites an internal sheriff’s investigation that found agency employees had performed campaign work. It also cites an account given to the Daily News by Brigid O’Malley, a former newspaper reporter who headed Rambosk’s public affairs office and was forced to leave due to allegations she forced employees to do campaign work.
Ortino’s first complaint, filed in February 2008 with the Florida Commission on Ethics, was dismissed two months later.