Venus Williams crash: Police say she drove ‘lawfully’ before fatal accident

Posted at 3:02 PM, Jul 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-08 17:02:04-04

By Ralph Ellis

New evidence shows that tennis star Venus Williams “lawfully” entered a Florida intersection seconds before a fatal crash involving her SUV, police said.

The Palm Beach Gardens police said surveillance video was obtained from the guard gate of a residential community near the intersection after authorities started investigating the June 9 collision that injured Jerome Barson, 78, who later died, and badly injured his wife, Linda.

“It has been determined the vehicle driven by Venus Williams lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal, and attempted to travel north through the intersection to Ballenisles Drive,” police said in a statement.

Williams came to a stop as she traveled through the intersection “to avoid a collision” when a car going in the opposite direction made a left turn in front of her.

She then continued north, in accordance with state law, before another car collided with her vehicle, police said.

“The vehicle driven by Linda Barson was traveling west on Northlake (Boulevard), in the outside lane, approaching a steady red traffic signal,” the statement said. “The traffic signal then cycled to green, at which time Barson continued westbound and entered the intersection. The front end of Barson’s vehicle collided with the right front of (Williams’) vehicle.”

A police accident report issued earlier said Williams was “at fault for violating the right of way” of the oncoming car. In the statement released Friday, police did not state who was at fault in the wreck.

“The investigation is still underway, and a final determination has not been made at this time,” said Paul Rogers, spokesman with the Palm Beach Gardens police.

No criminal charges have been filed.

Williams’ lawyer, Malcolm Cunningham, said he had not seen the surveillance video but was confident it would prove his client was not at fault.

A lawyer for the Barson family issued this statement: “The video released by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department continues to support the fact that Ms. Williams remained in the intersection at a red light, violating the Barsons’ right of way. There is nothing that disputes Ms. Williams was in the intersection on a red light, and the witnesses clearly confirm the Barsons had a green light and lawfully entered the intersection.”

Two weeks after the crash, Jerome Barson died in a hospital, and his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams, citing negligence.

The lawsuit states that Barson’s injuries included “severed main arteries, massive internal bleeding, a fractured spine, and massive internal organ damage.”

Earlier this week, Williams’ attorneys filed a protective order saying they had been given less than 24 hours’ notice that the Barson family’s counsel was going to download vehicle data from the tennis star’s SUV, CNN affiliate WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach reported.

On Friday, a judge granted an emergency motion that will allow Williams’ SUV to be searched in connection with the crash. Now, both parties will be able given a chance to download and inspect crash data from the two vehicles involved.

“They are pleased the evidence will be properly examined and preserved and it will prove that Miss Williams is at fault,” said Gary Iscoe, an attorney for the Barson family.

Cunningham, the lawyer for Williams, said the data will help both parties understand how the crash occurred.

“The vehicles involved in the accident are believed to contain critical information within their computer systems,” Cunningham said in a statement. “The motion for protective order ensures both parties have sufficient opportunity for their legal teams to prepare for an inspection and to establish a protocol that will govern the inspection which will ensure extraction of critical information by both parties in a way that preserves the evidence.”

Williams, 37, is a seven-time Grand Slam champion. She’s in London playing at Wimbledon, which she has won five times, the last time in 2008. Her next scheduled match is Monday, in the round of 16.

Williams broke down in tears at Wimbledon when reporters questioned her about the wreck.

“There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and — yeah. I’m completely speechless. It’s just …,” Williams said.

She held her head for several moments and asked to leave the room before returning, still visibly shaken, to finish the interview.

CNN’s Jill Martin, Chloe Melas, Nicole Chavez and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.