Dispatchers received reports of a reckless driver northbound in the southbound lanes of the 7 mile bridge at 11 p.m. Callers reported a white Chevrolet Impala which side swiped the bridge several times and had body damage on the sides of the car.
Deputy Vincent Weiner spotted the car a few minutes later northbound at 25th Street in Marathon. As he began to follow it, he saw the car do an abrupt u-turn and begin traveling south.
The deputy turned on lights and siren to stop the vehicle. It stopped at 22nd Street, but then accelerated away from the stop suddenly.The deputy continued to follow the car as it reached speeds of 90 miles an hour onto the 7 Mile Bridge. Sgt. Joel Slough also joined the chase at that point.
As they all reached the approach to the hump of the bridge, the deputy saw a large black cloud of smoke and debris from the Impala and the car suddenly slowed. The driver pulled over at the top of the hump and got out of the car. As the driver began walking around the front of his car, Deputy Weiner and Sgt. Joel Slough got of their vehicles ordering the driver, later identified as 45 year old Dale Darosa of Massachusetts, to stop and put up his hands.
As they continued ordering him to stop, Darosa jumped over the edge of the bridge and into the water. He began drifting toward the old 7 Mile Bridge rapidly, yelling for help.
The Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Marathon Marine Deputy Wilfredo Guerra were called to respond to the area to search for Darosa by water. He was recovered from the water about a half mile away from the bridge by Deputy Guerra and brought in to the Coast Guard station.
Darosa admitted to deputies he had been drinking alcohol. His son, a Marathon resident, later told the deputies his father is a recovering alcoholic who had begun drinking again. He said his father had been drinking alcohol all day.
Because of the distance Darosa fell when he jumped from the bridge, he was airlifted to Miami to the Ryder Trauma Center for treatment. A warrant will be obtained for his arrest and he will be taken into custody when he is released from the hospital. He faces charges of reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police and resisting arrest.
The vehicle he was driving – rented from Alamo Rental Car Company – appeared to have blown it’s engine and had to be towed off the bridge with severe damage to both the engine and to both side of the car’s body.