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Officer not at fault in Barancik’s fatal crash

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Longboat Key Police Officer Jeffrey Vogt did not cause the crash that killed Sarasota philanthropists Charles and Margery Barancik last December according to the conclusion of a Sarasota Police investigation released last week. 

In the evening of Dec. 18, 2019, Charles and Margery Barancik were struck by Officer Vogt as they exited their Longboat key En Provence condominium and were turning left or north onto Gulf of Mexico Drive.Officer Vogt was traveling at speeds of up to 84 mph on the 45 mph roadway just prior to the collision as he was responding to a report of a fire alarm at Longboat Club Towers, which is located behind the gates of the Key Club on the south end of the Key.

The investigation reports that Officer Vogt’s Ford Explorer patrol vehicle was driving 84 mph seconds before the crash, but he had slowed to 55 m.p.h. upon impact with the Barancik’s Tesla. Officer Vogt’s vehicle struck the Tesla’s driver’s door along with its central pillar. The impact killed Charles Barancik immediately and his wife, Margery, died from injuries the next day.

The report shows that the Baranciks activated their left turn signal and construction equipment left in the right-of-way – a backhoe and water trailer – likely blocked the view of both drivers. The Baranciks were wearing their seatbelts and both their front and side airbags deployed in the crash. Officer Vogt was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for injuries and a blood test showed that he did not have any alcohol or drugs in his system.

Officers in investigating the incident spoke with the property manager where the Barancik’s resided and they were told that both residents and employees had complained of the equipment left in the right-of-way. One of the residents who had complained reportedly was Charles Barancik.

Although the final investigative report by Sarasota Police Department faults Barancik, who was 91 years old, for violating the right-of-way and causing the crash, an investigation by the Longboat Key Police Department is now underway.

The concluded investigation by the Sarasota Police is the final determination that clears Officer Vogt of violating any traffic laws or any possible criminal charges. Such an investigation is always performed by an external agency.

What remains to be determined is whether any Longboat Key official procedures or regulations were violated.

Longboat Key Police Department Procedural General Orders establishes guidelines as to when lights and sirens are to be activated. One of the procedures states that during an emergency response, lights and sirens are required. According to the Sarasota Police investigation, Officer Vogt only had his emergency lights on and had not activated his siren.

Another issue that could arise is whether driving 84 mph was “careless” or “best practice” when it comes to Longboat Key policy. Many agencies recommend emergency vehicles stay within 20 mph over the posted speed limit, Officer Vogt was traveling 39 mph over the posted speed limit.

The Longboat Key Police Department Procedural General Orders do not dictate a speed limit, however, the Orders do state that the response should “minimize the risk of accidents or injuries.”

Officer Vogt remains on administrative leave while the Longboat Key internal investigation ensues. Depending on the outcome, he could be completely cleared and found to be in compliance with Longboat policy, or face any level of disciplinary action including termination.

Another issue is whether equipment left in the right-of-way in fact completely obstructed the view of both the officer responding and the Baranciks exiting their condominium. That issue as well as the findings of the Longboat Key Police Department could lead to civil litigation.

The loss of the Baranciks was experienced as a loss for much of the Sarasota community and beyond. The couple were renowned for their generosity and philanthropy and active social life and endeavors.

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