Crash victim: Helmet, vest no help ‘against a drunk’
November 7, 2018
KEY LARGO — “Basically, it crushed my face,” Philip Weydener describes the Oct. 15 motorcycle crash in Key Largo that nearly took his life.
“My life now consists of doctors’ appointments. I’ve got facial scarring, cranial scarring, broken teeth and a lot of road rash,” said Weydener, 54, of Key Largo. “I’m lucky to be alive. It’s going to take a long time to beat it.”
The driver accused of slamming his car into Weydener’s motorcycle at a U.S. 1 crossover now resides in Monroe County jail, facing two felony counts and six misdemeanors, with no bond allowed.
Gregory Alan Pope, 47, of Tavernier, had posted bond on multiple DUI charges after an Oct. 18 arrest but was taken into custody at his Oct. 30 arraignment before Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia.
Pope “violated conditions of [his] release by drinking,” say minutes from the Plantation Key courthouse proceeding.
Weydener, wearing a helmet and high-visibility safety vest while on his 2017 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider, had just turned from the southbound lanes into the U.S. One crossover near 102. It was 10:43 a.m.
Weydener had stopped for just seconds before a southbound 2015 Volkswagen Passat driven by Pope struck a Ford Explorer in front of him, knocking the Ford SUV across the median. The Passat then crashed into the stationary motorcycle. Weydener was thrown onto the Passat’s hood and struck the windshield before falling into the median.
“Vests do help in regular traffic but don’t help against a drunk,” said Weydener, who suffered critical injuries.
The rear-ended Ford Explorer veered into the northbound lane, clipping a northbound Ford Mustang, then crashed into two unoccupied vehicles parked in front of KLI True Value Hardware. Total vehicle damages were estimated at $120,000 by Florida Highway Patrol accident investigator Sgt. Pedro Reinoso.
Blood tests taken from Pope at Mariners Hospital showed his blood-alcohol limit was .33, about four times above the legal limit, Reinoso wrote in the arrest citation.
The initial FHP accident report indicated Weydener was not wearing a helmet. The report was updated to show his helmet had been jarred loose by the force of the crash.
Weydener, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, is vice president of Schooner Seafoods, the corporation that operates The Fish House restaurant in Key Largo.
“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” said C.J. Berwick, Weydener’s mother. “His attitude is great, but then he is a former Marine.”
Pope faces felony counts of “willful and wanton” reckless driving that caused serious bodily injury and being under the influence in a crash with serious injury.
He also was charged with six misdemeanor counts of DUI with property damage or injury that will be prosecuted by the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office. Pope’s next court appearance is scheduled for January.
Five days before the six-vehicle Oct. 15 crash, Pope completed a 12-month probation period from a Sept. 20, 2017, arrest for trespassing and violating an emergency-curfew order after Hurricane Irma.
In that incident, Pope was found wandering around Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada shortly before 1 a.m. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported that Pope became “very irate and aggressive” with them, provided false information and “appeared intoxicated.”