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Date of Issue: July 27, 2006

Crash blocks AMI-LBK access 12 hours

Crash halts electricity to Bradenton Beach
A car crash around 3 a.m. Tuesday, July 18, resulted in a power outage in south Bradenton Beach that lasted until late that afternoon. Longboat Key police officers were in pursuit of a vehicle that morning when it crossed the Longboat Pass Bridge and entered Bradenton Beach. Officers from that city joined the chase, but the suspect crashed his vehicle into a Florida Power and Light electrical pole before he could be stopped. While damage to the power pole was considerable, the suspect suffered only minor injuries. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest and may face other charges, police said. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

An early morning crash into a power pole blocked traffic to and from the south end of Anna Maria Island for more than 12 hours July 18.

More than 3,000 utility customers were left without power, according to Florida Power and Light spokesman Mel Klein. Traffic on State Road 789 (Gulf Drive) diverted to US 41 through Sarasota.

The crash took place at about 3 a.m., according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

According to Longboat Key Police Capt. George Turner, Robert M. Walsh, 18, of the 5800 block of 24th Street Court West, in Bradenton, was driving recklessly at speeds up to 100 mph when Turner started following Walsh. At some point, Walsh got behind Turner and was swerving from the center line to the shoulder and onto the grass and also riding Turner's rear bumper.

Turner pulled over to allow Walsh to pass. Walsh continued on to the Bradenton Beach area where he allegedly took out a power pole at 1303 Gulf Drive S., a BBPD arrest report said. The power pole was located just north of Coquina Beach, on the east side of Gulf Drive.

Bradenton Beach police charged Walsh with reckless driving with property damage, which Speciale said amounted to about $15,000. Longboat Key charged Walsh with driving under the influence among other charges.

Klein said the concrete pole had to be replaced and, as a main feeder line, the work took some time.

Variable message signs were put in place on Cortez Road notifying motorists of the traffic snarl and southbound road blockage. Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle said residents on the key were notified of the road blockage through a “code red system” via telephone.

Officials in both cities said they fielded hundreds of phone calls from irate motorists.

Mike Quinn is publisher of NewsManatee.com.