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Police and emergency rescue officials at the scene of the Jan. 4 crash on State Road A1A in Gulf Stream. The driver of the 2020 Kia Soul (right) crossed over the center line and hit a pack of cyclists heading in the other direction. Photo provided

By Anne Geggis

The three traffic citations a Lantana woman received after driving her 2020 Kia Soul into a pack of cyclists on State Road A1A in Gulf Stream in January — injuring three critically — won’t leave any marks on her driving record after a judge dismissed them April 3.

The judge’s ruling came after the Florida Highway Patrol officer who wrote the tickets for Betty Ann Ruiz, 77, did not appear for the April 3 hearing. The dismissed citations would have carried a $116 fine for failing to have proof of insurance, $166 for driving unknowingly with a suspended license and $166 for failing to keep to a single lane.

A report on the crash shows that Ruiz was not tested for drugs or alcohol after the incident. It attributed the crash to “seizure, epilepsy, blackout.” Ruiz, who court records say attended both a March 20 pretrial hearing and the April 3 hearing, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Five people were taken to the hospital as a result of the crash and the sheer number of casualties prompted a discussion throughout the coastal areas about the tight space drivers and cyclists share. Several municipalities have pledged to find a way to make the scenic route safer for cyclists.  

One of those critically injured, Diego Rico, 37, of Coconut Creek, said that no investigators contacted him to hear his view of the crash that broke his femur, dislocated his shoulder and shattered his pelvis. He expects that his injuries will keep him out of work for another two months.

“Literally, they are leaving us with nothing,” said Rico, who had 20 stitches to his knee and 39 staples to his hip and racked up medical bills totaling more than $1 million.

An FHP spokeswoman referred questions about Trooper Andy Ong’s absence from court and the citations’ dismissal to the State Attorney’s Office [Update: On Wednesday, the FHP spokeswoman said she was later told by Ong's supervisor that Ong was on approved leave the day of the hearing]. A spokesman for State Attorney David Aronberg said that the office doesn’t get involved in noncriminal cases.

The crash report on the Jan. 4 predawn incident found that Ruiz was heading south when she crossed the center line of North Ocean Boulevard alongside the Gulf Stream Golf Club course.

The most severely injured person had to be revived before being taken to Delray Medical Center via the county’s medical helicopter. He was released from the hospital nearly two months after the crash and has not fully regained his ability to walk and talk, Rico said.

Rico said that Ruiz has never contacted him or any of his fellow bicycle club members. He was part of the club Galera do Pedal, which is Portuguese for “Pedal Guys,” that regularly cycles along A1A from Deerfield Beach to Lake Worth.

“She never tried to get in touch with us or say or do anything,” Rico said. “She’s acting like she’s not at fault.”

That Ruiz is not being held responsible in any way rankles Michael Simon, president of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club.

“It should be taken seriously, especially with something like this,” said Simon, whose law practice is focused on civil litigation and corporate transactions. “Even if she had a medical incident. She shouldn’t have been on the road to begin with.

“She shouldn’t have been driving with a suspended license — we learn that in driving school,” Simon said. 

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