Fatal crash linked to underage drinking

2003-02-11

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Three bartenders in Tallahassee are accused of selling alcohol to twins from Clearwater before they died.

Three Tallahassee bartenders have been charged with serving alcohol to 20-year-old twins who later died in a car crash.

Eddie and Suzie Ward, both of Clearwater, were killed in a Nov. 23 crash in Tallahassee, where they were attending Tallahassee Community College. Authorities said their car veered out of control, hit a tree and flipped. Both were killed instantly.

Investigators determined that Eddie Ward, who was driving, had a blood-alcohol count of 0.09, while his sister’s count was 0.11, both slightly above the level at which Florida law presumes impairment.

Agents with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco launched an investigation to find out where the twins, who would have turned 21 the day after the crash, had been drinking.

Agents determined the twins had been at an Applebee’s and a TGI Friday’s in Tallahassee that night with a group of friends, perhaps as a prebirthday celebration. Three bartenders who served the twins either knew they were younger than 21 or did not ask for identification said A.J. Smith, chief of enforcement for the division.

Agents found no evidence the twins were using fake IDs, Smith said.
The bartenders arrested are Rachel Ann Pippi, 21, and Christopher Allen Durgin, 23, who worked at TGI Friday’s and Jesse William Stickle, 21, who worked at Applebee’s.

All three are students at Florida State University. They were booked into the Leon County Jail, then released on their own recognizance.

They face second-degree misdemeanor charges of selling an alcoholic beverage to an underage person. If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail, a $500 fine and six months of probation – or a blend of all three.

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