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State Attorney says no charges in Coconut Creek crash that killed two Kentucky children

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 3:44 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - At a news conference on Friday, State Attorney Larry Basford said no criminal charges would be filed in a crash that killed two children from Kentucky in December 2020.

The crash happened at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park on December 4, 2020 where Scott Donaldson was driving a vehicle on Hwy. 98 when he crashed into the grounds of Coconut Creek. That incident killed 4-year-old Baylor Kirchgessner and 6-year-old Addie Kirchgessner.

“As law enforcement officers we have to make the choice, we can do this right or we can do this fast,” Panama City Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez said. “We will choose accuracy over speed every time.”

At the Friday news conference, Basford announced that after more than a year of reviewing the case, there is insufficient evidence to charge Donaldson in the crash. Basford said they considered three potential criminal charges in the case: DUI manslaughter, manslaughter by culpable negligence and vehicular homicide.

“Based on the facts of our investigation, there is insufficient evidence to charge Donaldson with any criminal offense,” said Basford.

Basford said witnesses said Donaldson was “experiencing seizure like symptoms” after the crash, and then experienced an epileptic seizure at the hospital.

“An analysis of his telephone records, his cell phone records, reveal that he was not texting or talking at the time of the crash,” said Basford. “Eyewitness statements who observed Donaldson’s driving immediately before the crash indicate that he was not speeding or driving erratically.”

Toxicology reports showed that Donaldson took medication for a neurological condition, and had the appropriate amount of medication in his system at the time of the crash.

“Our investigation has revealed that Donaldson has had epilepsy for over 20 years,” said Basford.

The state attorney said Donaldson has had three prior traffic crashes that were caused by seizures.

“After each crash, there is a Florida administrative code that deals with seizures under the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that he (Donaldson) can apply to have his driving privilege’s reinstated to the Medical Advisory Board and he did each time,” State Attorney’s Office Chief Prosecutor Mark Graham said.

But at the time of the Coconut Creek crash, Donaldson was cleared to drive by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Basford also said doctor’s records show Donaldson had a routine visit with a neurologist two days before the crash.

“During that visit, the doctor discussed the conditions with him (Donaldson) and told him that he was perfectly fit to carry on his routine daily activities, which included driving,” said Basford.

Basford said Donaldson’s driving privileges have been revoked, but under current law he could apply to have his license reinstated next week. Basford said his office is working to have Donaldson’s license permanently revoked. Basford said he wrote a letter to the Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles “strongly requesting” Donaldson’s license be permanently revoked.

“I cannot begin to comprehend the grief and the loss experienced by the parents of these two children. But I can assure the magnitude of this tragedy was not lost on us. I continue to hold the parents in my prayers,” said Basford.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to the Kirchgessner family and they declined to comment until they could review the findings of the case.

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