Patrick Diggins, rowing coach who drove team van, cited for role in fatal Florida crash
A former Massachusetts college rowing coach who was driving a team van during a fatal wreck in Florida has been cited for his role in the crash, police said.
Patrick Diggins, the longtime women’s rowing coach at the College of the Holy Cross, was cited by Vero Beach police for failing to yield to oncoming traffic in a Jan. 15 crash that killed 20-year-old sophomore rower Grace Rett and injured 13 other people, according to a police report obtained by the Boston Globe.
The right-of-way violation is a noncriminal traffic citation and an investigation into the horrific wreck as the team was headed to a winter training camp at the Vero Beach Rowing Club is considered closed. Police will submit their findings to local prosecutors for review, the Globe reports.
Diggins, who announced his retirement Friday, was behind the wheel of a rented 12-passenger Ford Transit van when he turned left across a six-lane highway but did not have a green turning arrow at the time, according to the police report.
Diggins’ actions took the van directly into the path of an oncoming 2005 Dodge Ram truck that had the right of way, resulting in a nearly head-on collision.
“Please let me have had the green light,” Diggins allegedly told police at the scene. “Did I have a green arrow? God please let me have had a green arrow.”
Diggins told investigators he heard someone in the team’s van scream just prior to the wreck, but said he didn’t see the Dodge Ram until moments before impact. The driver of the truck also told cops that Diggins was “looking down and not looking at the roadway” as he turned, police said.
College officials announced Friday that Diggins would retire after 34 years at Holy Cross. The team will be led by an interim coach ahead of its new season, which is set to start in April.
“I thank Patrick for his years of dedication and service to the college,” director of athletics Marcus Blossom said. “I wish him luck as he steps into this new chapter.”
An attorney for the former coach, meanwhile, said in a statement released Tuesday that he “continues to be grief-stricken about the loss and impact this accident has caused so many families,” but added that police have determined no criminal charges are warranted in the deadly crash.
The wreck took place one day after Rett’s 20th birthday. More than 1,000 people attended a memorial for the sophomore at the college’s campus in Worcester last month, MassLive.com reports.
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