- By Sarah Peters Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The speculation started swirling as soon as the news broke that tennis superstar Venus Williams was reported at-fault in a fatal crash outside the entrance to BallenIsles, the luxury gated community where she owns a home.
In the absence of the whole story, people are inevitably tempted to fill in the missing pieces.
The initial crash report issued by Palm Beach Gardens Police the day of the crash included scant details of what unfolded the afternoon of June 9:
Venus told police she had a green light when she left Steeplechase in her 2010 Toyota Sequoia and had to stop in the middle of Northlake Boulevard for traffic.
By the time Williams thought it was safe to go, the light for westbound traffic on Northlake turned from red to green. Linda Barson, the driver of a Hyundai Accent, said Williams cut in front of her and Barson couldn’t avoid hitting her. Williams told police she never saw Barson coming. Barson’s husband Jerome, 78, died of injuries he suffered in the crash two weeks later.
His estate is suing Williams.
Immediately, people raised questions. Not all of them have been answered, but last week we got more detail when police released video of the crash that was captured by a camera on the guard shack at Steeplechase.
-Was Venus trying to beat a yellow light? Her assertion that the light was green seemed to be corroborated by the video.
-Did Barson brake for the red light, as she told police, before it turned green? We’ll find out when both cars are inspected. Data from onboard computers should provide an answer.
-Were drugs or alcohol involved?The crash report says no.
-Was either driver distracted by a cellphone? The crash report says no.
-Was Jerome Barson wearing a seatbelt? The crash report says yes.
Conflicting media reports have only added to the conjecture and confusion. In the past week, certain stories erroneously say Venus Williams was “cleared of any wrongdoing.” The statement police released with video of the crash Friday does report Williams entered the intersection “lawfully.”
But Maj. Paul Rogers, a police spokesman, said they are still investigating when asked if their earlier conclusion that Williams was at fault had changed.
The video showed a third car, a Nissan Altima, leaving BallenIsles. The Altima turned left in front of Williams, forcing her to stop to avoid a crash. The biggest question now is who was behind the Nissan’s wheel. Police are still working to identify the driver.
In summary, it is accurate to say that police labeled Williams at fault at one point and later said the light was green when she entered the intersection. It isn’t true that she’s been exonerated. Police haven’t decided that yet.