Man who strikes, kills motorcyclist guilty of driving without a license

JURY VERDICT: Man who strikes, kills motorcyclist guilty of driving without a license

Albino Contreras drifted into oncoming traffic and struck a motorcyclist, severing his leg and throwing him from his bike into a canal.

Albino Contreras, 55.

David Szewczykowski, 68, of Davenport, went into cardiac arrest and died before paramedics could transport him to the hospital. At the time of the crash, Contreras had not been issued a Florida driver’s license.

A jury found Contreras guilty Aug. 10 of driving without a valid license, resulting in death or serious injury. He will be sentenced September 28.

Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Van Der Burgh recounted the fatal crash on May 3, 2016.

Szewczykowski was driving on Dean Still Road when Contreras drove his car into the opposite lane, colliding with the motorcycle. Szewczykowski was thrown from his motorcycle and landed in a water-filled canal.

Passersby who saw the aftermath of the crash got out of their vehicles to help while first responders made their way to the scene.

Alan Akouka and Curtis Barnes saw Szewczykowski submerged in the water and jumped in to help pull him to the shore and hold his head above the water. Initially, Szewczykowski wasn’t responsive, but he slowly started talking about how the car came at him and how his leg didn’t feel right.

Akouka and Barnes stayed with him until paramedics arrived. Polk County firefighter Will Wilson was one of the first medics to reach Szewczykowski.

By that point, Wilson said, Szewczykowski was conscious, alert and in excruciating pain. They pulled him from the water to see that his left leg had a partial amputation.

“He was in severe distress with components of his body starting to shut down,” Wilson said, pausing to regain his composure as he recalled the incident. “The helicopter was landing when he went into cardiac arrest.”

Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Van Der Burgh tells jurors during closing
arguments August 19 that the victim would not have died if Contreras had
not been driving. He faces nearly eight years in prison.

Szewczykowski was pronounced dead upon his arrival to the hospital.

The defense claimed the crash was an accident and that it was not proof that Contreras was being careless or negligent while driving. Because he did not flee after the crash and fully cooperated with law enforcement, the defense argued there was no way to prove Contreras was careless or negligent.

Van Der Burgh told jurors in her closing statements that Contreras’ actions proved just that.

“The point of impact was in David’s lane. The crash reconstruction proves that,” she said. “How else do you explain a vehicle ending up on the other side of the road if not for careless and negligent conduct?”

The defense also argued that it wouldn’t have made a difference if Contreras had a license – that it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. But Van Der Burgh said that the entire incident would have been avoided if Contreras had not been driving.

“If he’d honored the laws of Florida by not driving without having a license, he would not have been on the road that day. If he was not on the road that day, David would still be here,” Van Der Burgh said. “Come back with the only verdict that makes sense, which is guilty.”