Speed, alcohol factors in deadly crash involving Bowden's grandson, Polk Sheriff reports

7:52 AM, Dec 28, 2013   |    comments
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Winter Haven, Florida -- Its tough to tell where the Mitsubishi went off the road early Thursday morning, other than the small flower wedged into the newly-replaced fence posts.

Friends and family of the victims stopped by -- not yet ready to share thoughts on-camera -- but looking for comfort in each other. And they were joined by strangers, who were compelled by the news of two young lives ending too early.

"It touches all of us...but life moves on, one day at a time," said Lon J. Muncey, of Winter Haven.

The three high school friends, home for the holidays, were believed to have been drinking Christmas night before losing control on the ride home.

READ: Bobby Bowden's grandson dies in submerged car

Deputies say the car likely went into this stream around 2 a.m., it went undiscovered for six hours, and it wasn't until divers went in 10 hours later that they realized one man, Robert Edwards, was still alive in the back.

Edwards, 22, was treated for hypothermia and released from the hospital later Friday. Autopsy reports on the driver, 25-year-old Rafael Fernandes Valim and on passenger, 23-year old Taylor Jeffrey "TJ" Bowden, indicate the two died from drowning as neither had injuries related to the crash.

And while it wasn't the first fatal accident on this windy road, Sheriff Judd says alcohol was ultimately responsible.

There was nothing wrong with the road -- it was the driver," said Polk Sheriff Grady Judd. "It appears to us it was alcohol-related and it appears that speeds were too great to take the curve."

Official toxicology reports on all three men are still pending.


No charges are expected since the driver is dead. There will also be no criminal charges for the bar the men were drinking at Christmas night, but there could be a wrongful death civil case later on.

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