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PSTA, St. Pete cop wrestle over responsibility for a 2014 police cruiser crash

in Local Courts by
Jereme John Hayes

In 2014, a St. Petersburg Police cruiser collided with a county bus at an intersection in St. Pete Beach. Now the cop and the bus driver are facing off in court over who actually caused the wreck.

Jereme John Hayes, 33, was serving as a St. Petersburg police officer at the time. In an October 2013 divorce affidavit, he claimed to earn $4,449 per month, plus overtime.

Hayes was driving a police cruiser Jan. 9, 2014, along Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach with its lights flashing and siren blaring. As he began turning left near the 5900 block, Hayes claims a Pinellas County Transit Authority bus traveling in the opposite direction struck the vehicle on the right side.

Raymond Albert Thornton, now 62, had been driving the bus at the time. According to a divorce affidavit dated April 2014, the St. Petersburg resident said the PSTA paid him $20.99 an hour.

A search of the Pinellas County online traffic database shows neither party was cited in the crash in question, and Thornton has never received a driving citation in the county.

Nevertheless, the PSTA is blaming the accident on Hayes.

In a letter dated Jan. 28, 2014, Lynette Jones, a Liability Claims Adjuster for the Brumbelow Drechsel Law Group, the firm representing the Transit Authority, said: “Our investigation of this accident finds that PSTA is not at fault for the accident, as Mr. Hayes drove his vehicle into the path of the bus. Therefore, we must respectfully deny your claim for damages …”

A complaint filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court Jan. 17, 2017, says Hayes accuses Thornton of negligent failure to yield, which caused the crash that left him with injuries to his “cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine and headaches,” among other things.

Hays is seeking damage from both Thornton and PSTA for damages, costs, interest, prejudgment interest and “any other relief the court deems appropriate.”

This is not Hayes’ first lawsuit over an auto accident. In 2015, he sued a woman named Anthonetta Ireland over a 2012 crash. In that instance, Ireland received a citation for “careless driving.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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