According to a recent report in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Volusia County Beach Patrol ranger involved in Wednesday’s beach truck accident has a history of careless driving while on the job. Beach ranger John Scott Dowling is accused of running over sunbather Carole Dalton as he drove across the beach to help a lifeguard.
Despite initial reports that her injuries were not serious, Ms. Dalton required emergency surgery due to compound fractures in her lower leg. Her shinbone was fractured up to the knee, requiring the installation of a plate and seven screws. She also sustained cuts to the face and a large bruise on her chest where the beach truck’s tire ran over her.
“She started rehabilitation this morning. They’re saying no weight (on it) for 90 days,” her husband told the News-Journal on Thursday. “It was much worse than we thought.”
Dalton feels lucky: “God and a guardian angel were watching over me,” she said. “If he (Dowling) hadn’t turned to miss the woman with the baby, he would have run over my center and I’d be dead.”
A Personnel File Filled With Commendations — And Several Accidents
The Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation of the beach truck accident was not complete by the time the Daytona Beach News-Journal story was published on Thursday afternoon, but charges are pending.
John Dowling has worked as a beach ranger since 1987, According to the News-Journal, his personnel file is mostly filled with commendations. He has several marks on his record, however, when it comes to his driving:
• In 1993, he was suspended without pay for one day because the county’s Accident Review Board determined he had “been negligent” while driving his work vehicle.
• In 1998, his supervisor sent him a “letter of caution,” reminding Dowling that he had been involved in “several preventable motor vehicle accidents” since he began working for Volusia County, and that he had taken Risk Management’s driver safety training course “twice previously.” That course is required when employees are involved in on-the-job car or truck accidents, although Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron points out that the accidents could be minor.
• In 2008, Dowling was involved in a slow-speed, rear-end collision on State Road A1A that the Accident Review Board determined was preventable.
Also in 2008, Dowling and some colleagues were created a beach driving training class, which earned him a commendation from Beach Patrol Captain Scott Petersohn. “Your dedication and commitment to the Volusia County Beach Patrol and the beach-going public will have a positive effect on safety and public perception for many years to come,” wrote Petersohn.
“As soon as the FHP report comes out, we’ll review it to see what went wrong,” Petersohn told the News-Journal of Wednesday’s beach truck accident. “We’ll see what we can do to change.”
Carole Dalton holds no grudge against beach patrol drivers, but does think some safety procedures could be incorporated to prevent accidents.
“I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds and the next thing I knew, the truck was on top of me,” she said. “I was on my chair stuck under it. I was screaming and crying. It hurt.”
“If he had a blind spot, he should have gotten out to look,” she added.
• “Records: Beach officer warned before about driving” (Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 11, 2010)
• “Sunbather run over by Beach Patrol vehicle” (Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 9, 2010)