A Tavernier woman accused of drunken driving while behind the wheel of a Porsche allegedly reached speeds in excess of 100 mph on U.S. 1 Tuesday evening before crashing in the Upper Keys, prompting multiple 911 calls from horrified motorists.
No one was hurt, which law enforcement officers and other drivers described as a miracle.
"I felt the car go past me before I saw it," Key Largo resident Tim Hemsote said Wednesday. "She just exploded past me going crazy fast. I was cruising along at 35 or 40 mph and she had to have been going at least 60 mph faster than me."
Hemsote was one of a half-dozen motorists who reported seeing the 2007 black sports car between Mile Markers 82 and 90 about 4:30 p.m., weaving in and out of the northbound lane, crashing through plastic, vertical lane markers and clipping another car before crashing into a road sign and spinning out, according to a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) press release and Monroe County Sheriff's Office dispatch records.
Rebecca Hester, 55, of 88950 Overseas Highway, faces 19 charges in all, which include DUI, DUI with property damage, hit and run, refusal to submit to a DUI test, five counts of refusal to accept or sign a citation, eight felony counts of battery on a law enforcement officer or paramedic and two counts of simple battery.
"I was in my friend's SUV, and when she went by us, she shook us," Islamorada resident Neal Derringer said. "It literally shook this big Lexus and my friend and I looked at each other and we said, 'Holy Jesus.' "
One caller said the Porsche may have reached speeds of 150 mph near Mile Marker 88, but FHP Lt. Alex Annunziato could not verify that report.
Troopers and Sheriff's Office deputies received their first report from Bud 'N' Mary's Marina, where customers called to report a Porsche was "running into things" in the parking lot. From there a stream of calls began arriving from other drivers on U.S. 1.
Hester struck a 2003 Honda Pilot driven by Angela Marie Wynn, 40, of Tavernier, near Mile Marker 86, Annunziato said.
The front right portion of the Porsche struck the left rear part of the Honda, causing the Porsche to fishtail, but Hester did not stop and continued north, according to the press release. Wynn reportedly was not injured.
Hester passed Derringer near Mile Marker 88.
"If I was doing 70 mph on the turnpike and that car passed me, I still would have been shocked," Derringer said. "She was having so much trouble staying in her lane, she's lucky she didn't kill half a dozen people, including herself."
Sheriff's Office deputies were preparing to use metal spike strips to stop Hester when she drove into the center median just south of the Tavernier Creek Bridge at Mile Marker 90 and hit a metal road sign, sheriff's Capt. Corey Bryan said.
She then struck a curb, spun around and came to rest facing south in the northbound lane, Bryan said.
Hester was taken to Mariners Hospital, where she allegedly attacked a hospital security officer, a paramedic and a trooper, before she was taken to the Monroe County jail on Plantation Key and then the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island, where she remained Wednesday in lieu of $21,000 bail.
"Had she not hit the curb and if that sign had not been there, it's very likely she would have hit someone head-on in the southbound lane," Bryan said. "There are a lot of businesses, subdivisions as well as the high school along that stretch where people are pulling on and off the road, so it can be dangerous, but these speeds are ridiculous. I'm so glad people took the time and called us."
Hester previously was charged with cocaine possession in 2009 and DUI in 2001, Annunziato said.