Jury hears witnesses in trial for man accused of fleeing deadly Collier County boat crash

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The trial for the man accused of hitting a man with his boat and fleeing back in 2020 continued on Tuesday with the jury hearing from witnesses, including the victim’s family.

James Allen, 78, is accused of leaving the scene of a boat crash that killed 57-year-old Onofrio Sozio neat Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park and north of Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples on March 5, 2020.

MORE: Trial begins for man accused of fleeing from deadly boat crash in Collier County

The victim’s wife, Kim Sozio, told the jury her husband loved the beach and was a strong swimmer. She said on March 5, 2020; her husband said the boat was going way faster than it should and that it was headed toward her husband, and at first, she wasn’t sure it hit him.

Then she saw the boat turn around, and that’s when she said it became clear, the boat struck him.

Nick Trasente, Cozio’s cousin, told the jury it wasn’t until he saw the boaters signaling for other beachgoers to help Sozio that he realized he got hit and ran into the water to help.

“I go to pick up my cousin to help put him on the board, and I noticed how injured he was. I noticed the severity of his injuries,” said Trasente.

Marzano: “And how were you able to know how serious his injuries were?”

Trasente: “When I picked him up, I was carrying him like you would hold a child in your arms, and my hands were in his chest. I actually dropped him back in the water because that was not a way I could hold him without hurting him, and I put my hands underneath him, and the guys that were there grabbed his legs, and we lifted him up and put him on the board.”

Those life-saving efforts proved to be too late. The prosecution says Allen left the scene of the crash. The defense said that’s not the case.

A group of beachgoers who helped Sozio after he was hit also testified. Some are in these videos from that day showing the victim being hauled off the beach on a motorized paddle board.

Four former Florida Polytechnic University students said they were at Vanderbilt Beach when they say the defendant James Allen, and his brother wave them over.

This is what witness Tyler Garrison told the court he did next.

“I get to the boat, and that’s when I realize something is happening. I see the swimmer, and he is kind of holding on to the boat, holding onto a flotation device cushion,” said Garrison. “So I start to bring him to shore, and he’s telling me he feels nauseous and he’s going to pass out. So, I start to bring him to shore as quickly as I can. I start to feel the sand underneath me so I can start pulling him in a little faster, and at that point, I asked him if he could walk himself, so he could get to the shore faster.”

Garrison told the court that Sozio could not walk once they reached the shore.

A fundamental disagreement is whether Allen left the scene before or after Sozio got help.

Garrison said he believed the beach-goer who brought in the motorized paddle board was a firefighter and that Allen’s boat didn’t leave until Sozio was taken away.

Testimony continues on Wednesday and is expected to end on Thursday.

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