The Florida Highway Patrol held a “Stay at the Scene” press conference in the hopes of driving home the consequences of hit-and-run crashes.
Hit-and-runs are an all-too-familiar phenomenon in Southwest Florida. In December, security camera footage caught the moment a bicyclist was hit and killed in Golden Gate near 41st Street Southwest. The man’s phone was left ringing—he was hit while calling his wife.
Another hit-and-run from March 2021 affected two women vacationing in Fort Myers Beach were hit. A video was taken just 20 seconds before one of them was killed, and the other’s life was changed forever. The car was seen continuing its drive toward the beach.
The numbers in 2022 alone are alarming: In Lee County, there were 4,190 hit; 795 had injuries, and 11 were deadly. In Charlotte County, 568 hit-and-runs; 89 had injuries, and two were deadly. In Collier County, 1,485 hit-and-runs occurred; 236 had injuries, and three people died from them.
A total of 216 cars fill a law enforcement evidence lot. Most are beat up, missing windshields and parts, and are tagged with a homicide case number. Each car tells a story.
“Every day gets a little bit easier, but it never gets better,” said Linda Beni. “I passed the accident to go to the gym. I said a little prayer and hoped everyone was OK.”
They were not. One of the two people killed in the crash was Beni’s daughter Brittany Lynn.
“As a catholic. I keep knowing that I have to give forgiveness, but no one can ever be forgiven for taking my daughter away from it,” said Beni.
Bni’s daughter and the other person killed died in a hit-and-run on a Port Charlotte road. Six years later, she still feels the pain.
At a Thursday morning news conference, Beni joined FHP, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers to discuss the importance of drivers staying at a crash scene.
“Listening to Ms. Beni speak of the loss of her daughter is heartbreaking,” said Lt. Greg Bueno. “Yet here we stand six years later, and there’s still countless, hundreds of thousands of crimes of hit-and-run that occur every year.”
Law enforcement found Lynn’s killer. He is now serving 14 years in prison. Had he stayed, his time behind bars might have been less.
“She was my little buddy. So she was my baby. She was, you know, she’ll always be my baby. Always,” said Beni.
“Anybody who takes a human life or injures a human life and then takes off like a coward needs to be held accountable for their actions,” said Trish Route, with Crime Stoppers.
Route and Bueno agree those who leave the scene of a crash are selfish.
“On November 4, a pickup truck entered a McDonald’s parking lot up in Charlotte County. There was a pedestrian standing in that parking lot. That pickup truck proceeded to literally drive right over top of that pedestrian like he wasn’t even there,” said Bueno.
In 2022 in Lee County, there were 4190 hit-and-runs, 795 with injuries. Eleven people died.
In Charlotte County, there were 568 hit-and-run cases, 89 of which had injuries. Two were fatal.
Collier County had 1485 hit-and-runs, with 236 involving injuries. Three people died.