Driver named in fatal East Naples bicycle crash

A car rides past a memorial for Robin Wallace on Estey Ave on Thursday, October 4, 2012 in Naples, Fla. Robin was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day. The identity of the driver who hit her is still unknown. Robin was 48.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL, NAPLES DAILY NEWS // Buy this photo

A car rides past a memorial for Robin Wallace on Estey Ave on Thursday, October 4, 2012 in Naples, Fla. Robin was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day. The identity of the driver who hit her is still unknown. Robin was 48.

Dania Maxwell/Staff
John Wallace speaks about his wife, Robin, who was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day in Naples. He is comforted by his daughter, Virginia Rose, right. 'i never gave her a goodbye kiss,' John said. The identity of the driver who hit Robin is still unknown. She was 48.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff John Wallace speaks about his wife, Robin, who was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day in Naples. He is comforted by his daughter, Virginia Rose, right. "i never gave her a goodbye kiss," John said. The identity of the driver who hit Robin is still unknown. She was 48.

Signs warn motorists driving onto Brookside Drive and Estey Avenue that trucks over 1 ton are not permitted. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Robin Wallace's family alleges an Oakes Farms employee drove an 18-wheeler down Estey Avenue, knocking Wallace off her bicycle and killing her.

Signs warn motorists driving onto Brookside Drive and Estey Avenue that trucks over 1 ton are not permitted. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Robin Wallace's family alleges an Oakes Farms employee drove an 18-wheeler down Estey Avenue, knocking Wallace off her bicycle and killing her.

Troopers have identified a man they believe was driving a tractor-trailer that hit and killed an East Naples bicyclist last September.

A Florida Highway Patrol crash report obtained Friday names Jon Price, 59, of North Naples, as the driver of a tractor-trailer that hit Robin Wallace, 48, on the morning of Sept. 29. Wallace died at the scene of the crash, which happened on Estey Avenue near the intersection of Embassy Lane.

The crash has been investigated as a hit-and-run, since no one stopped to help Wallace or wait for authorities after she was struck.

Price will be issued a citation for failure to obey a traffic control device — a sign that says no trucks weighing more than 1 ton are allowed on Estey Avenue. There was not enough evidence to determine exactly how the crash happened, who was at fault or if Price knew he had hit Wallace, according to the crash report.

"There's insufficient evidence — through hours and hours and hours of trying to go back and look into this investigation — insufficient evidence to prove the driver had known," said Lt. Greg Bueno, an area spokesman for FHP.

Price's truck was linked to the crash through tire tread patterns, business surveillance video, truck route papers, the trucking company and the driver himself, Bueno said.

In addition to its crash investigation, the FHP is conducting a parallel traffic homicide investigation. The FHP has yet to release the results of that investigation, which could contain criminal charges. Bueno said the agency has consulted with the State Attorney's Office regarding potential charges.

Attempts to reach Price at his home Friday were not successful.

Wallace's family filed an auto negligence suit in January naming Oakes Farms, 2205 Davis Blvd., as a responsible party in Wallace's death. The vehicle driven by Price is owned by Oakes Farms, according to state vehicle registration records provided by the family's attorney, Miami-based David Bianchi.

"It verifies that we have sued the right company," Bianchi said. "These big trucks are not supposed to be driving down this road. … It takes a horrific tragedy like this to wake up the owners of these trucks."

Alfie Oakes, the owner of Oakes Farms, acknowledged that Price is a driver for the business and that his truck was in the neighborhood during the time of the crash. But he denied that it was an Oakes Farms truck that hit Wallace.

"There's no factual information that substantiates that," he said.

Oakes said he was told by county and law enforcement officials that it was OK for his trucks to use Brookside and Estey on their routes. Oakes called the crash report "reckless" and said he was awaiting the formal traffic homicide investigation.

"I know the family wants closure and I feel bad for them," Oakes said. "If there's some more evidence to this, I'm happy to listen. I'm not trying to get out of anything if we're involved in this."

Bianchi said westbound trucks on Davis Boulevard often cut through Brookside Drive and Estey Avenue so they can take a right turn on Airport-Pulling Road and more easily head south. A truck coming from Oakes Farms would have to drive west on Davis and make a U-turn somewhere in order to be able to make a right and head south on Airport.

Denise Rupert, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1994, said she has been complaining since 2002 to individual truck drivers, Oakes Farms, the county and the Sheriff's Office about trucks illegally using Estey Avenue. Nothing she did stopped the trucks from using her neighborhood as a cut through, she said.

Rupert said she called the Sheriff's Office just three weeks before Wallace was killed.

"I didn't know her, but I feel like I tried to prevent her death and no one helped me," Rupert said.

Wallace's husband, John Wallace, said he wants to keep other families from having to go through what he has.

"I just want to make the roads safer," he said. "And it never should have happened."

John Wallace met his wife more than three decades ago at a bowling alley. Robin was a manager at McDonald's, an avid reader, a Christmas light fanatic, a big hugger and the love of John's life, he said.

Every other night, he visits a little memorial site at the place where she died. He sometimes brings her flowers.

Each day is a battle.

"I just can't sleep at night," he said.

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