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December fatality called ‘tragic accident’

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Kathleen Benison of Cortez has been cited with failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk for the Dec. 8 death of Antoinette Pruss, 65, of Sarasota, in the 900 block of Gulf Drive North.

Benison was driving when she collided with Pruss, who was in the crosswalk near the Gulf Drive Cafe.

Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. James Gill responded to the crash and concluded his investigation March 12. Gill was waiting on the final blood tests of Benison to conclude the investigation.

According to the police report, Benison did not have any alcohol in her blood, but did have 8.8 nano-grams of hydrocodone per liter of blood.

However, the painkiller was prescribed to Benison, and the report said the trace amount was “below normal therapeutic standards,” indicating Benison was not likely impaired at the time of the accident, according to Gill.

Gill said there would be no criminal charges filed, and that this incident was a tragic accident.

“There was nothing criminal to it,” said Gill. “Unfortunately it was just a case of not paying attention, which seems to be the norm for people driving these days.”

Gill said it was likely a case of both the driver and pedestrian not paying attention.

“When you look at Pruss, you have to ask why would she step out,” he said. “Maybe she was thinking the car was slowing down and maybe it was because Benison said she was looking at the water. So maybe she did start to slow down and Pruss thought she saw her. But even being at a crosswalk, you have to make sure cars are going to stop for you.”

Gill said if there’s a lesson to come out of the tragedy, it’s for pedestrians and drivers both to pay careful attention to one another, but “pedestrians especially, because pedestrians are going to lose every time against a car.”

Pruss was initially alive following the crash. Benison struck her while driving a 1998 GMC Yukon. She cooperated with police and admitted that she had been looking at the water. She said then that she saw Pruss at the last second, attempted to brake and steer out of the way.

Bystanders were performing CPR when emergency responders arrived, but Pruss later died at the hospital from “multiple internal injuries sustained from blunt-force trauma,” according to the report.

“You can drive around just about anywhere and see people not paying attention all day long,” said Gill. “Whether they are looking around, talking or texting on their phone or whatever else, people need to pay attention. When they don’t pay attention it creates a dangerous situation and, unfortunately, tragic accidents like this one can happen.”

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