FL: Pills, vaping equipment found in SUV of driver that hit, killed Royal Palm Beach High students

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is considering a charge of DUI manslaughter

Investigators seized the event data recorder and a backpack containing pills and vaping equipment from the vehicle that struck four Royal Palm Beach High School students last week, killing two of them, according to law enforcement records.

The search warrants say the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is considering a charge of DUI manslaughter against the driver of the 2018 Alfa Romeo SUV, which jumped a curb and struck the students as they waited for a bus along Crestwood Boulevard just before sunrise March 22.

Tiana Johnson and Chand Wazir, both 15, died from injuries related to the crash last week. The two other students were treated at hospitals and released.

Angel Antonio Lopez, 57, of Royal Palm Beach, has not been charged. He is the owner of the vehicle, and the sheriff’s office says he was driving it when it hit the students near Cypress Lakes Drive in Royal Palm Beach.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said Thursday investigators are still awaiting the results of a toxicology report and other records. An attorney representing Lopez declined to comment.

Multiple sheriff’s search warrants made public this week described Lopez as cooperative in the moments after the crash and said he agreed to answer questions from an investigator and to have his blood drawn for the toxicology test.

According to the warrants, Lopez told investigators he was driving north on Crestwood when he struck a curb. He said he crashed and didn’t know what happened after that. An investigator wrote that Lopez “appeared lethargic, slow and seemed dehydrated.”

An investigator observed two medication pill bottles without labels inside the vehicle and the backpack sitting next to the vehicle. Lopez stated the backpack was his, the investigator said.

A search of the backpack revealed that it contained a black vape pen with a brown liquid, a brown bottle with liquid inside, two bottles labeled for a testosterone-enhancement product, 161 brown pills and an eyedrop bottle, according to sheriff’s records.

Investigators also say that 27 non-narcotic prescription pills were recovered during a search of the vehicle.

The vehicle’s data recorder will allow investigators to examine details such as changes in the SUV’s velocity, the driver’s actions and the condition of the vehicle. Initial crash reports did not indicate how fast the vehicle was traveling.

In the aftermath of the crash, area residents expressed concern about safety on the stretch of Crestwood just north of Southern Boulevard in recent months. Johnson and Wazir’s deaths are the first reported fatalities at the intersection since February of last year, but there have been eight crashes there in that time, according to Palm Beach County traffic engineers.

On Monday, the Palm Beach County School District moved students from nearby neighborhoods to new bus stops, a move that Royal Palm Beach principal Michelle Fleming said was made out of respect for the victims and their families.

Balloons, flowers and stuffed animals were left at the crash site at a memorial created for Johnson, who died the morning after the crash. Friends and family held a vigil in her memory near the crash scene Saturday. Signs celebrating Wazir are there, too.

Wazir succumbed to his injuries last Friday. A GoFundMe posting created for his family described him as “a sweet and special young man that had such a bright future ahead of him.”

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