Ft. Lauderdale Police request blood samples in Riverside Hotel crash
04/03/2012 8:44 AM
04/03/2012 8:54 AM
Fort Lauderdale Police served a search warrant last month requesting blood samples from a driver involved in the deadly car crash that killed a pregnant woman.
Alanna Demella was seven-months pregnant and visiting Fort Lauderdale from Boston when police say a car driven by Rosa Rivera, of Plantation, slammed into the poolside cabana at the Riverside Hotel on March 18. Demella was killed. Demella’s husband, Michael, was also in the cabana. He suffered minor injuries.
As workers continued to clean up and repair the cabana Monday, the search warrant shed light on Rivera’s actions in the moments leading up to the crash.
According to the warrant, Rivera told investigators she was at Mango’s Restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard with her husband. She ordered a “martini and appetizers.” But Rivera said the couple “got into an argument” and Rivera told detectives she left before finishing her food and drink.
Rivera told police she spoke to her husband in the parking lot of the restaurant, then “sped off.” The warrant says an unnamed witness told investigators Rivera was traveling “at a much greater speed” than the 25 mile per hour speed limit on SE 4th Street.
A block and a half from the restaurant police say Rivera slammed into the cabana. Rivera told police she does not remember the crash.
The warrant says investigators want to know if Rivera was under the influence at the time of the crash.
The warrant does not reveal the results of the blood tests but an investigator writes, “there is probable cause to believe that Rosa Rivera was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and/or controlled substance at the time of this crash.”
There’s a twist — people who live and work near the accident scene told CBS 4 News there used to be a stop sign on SE 4th Street half-a-block from the crash scene. There is also the faint markings where a line was painted in the road for vehicles to stop.
Valerie Pool has lived in the area for years. She said speeding has been a problem.
“It’s a perfect place for a stop sign,” Pool told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “We were so pleased that a stop sign came and that solved all the problems.”
Pool believes that if the stop sign had been in place the crash may not have happened.
“They would have had to stop,” Pool said.
But Broward County transportation officials said the stop signs were not ordered by the county.
Ed Davis, Interim Director of the Traffic Engineering Division, said it appears an outside group put the signs up. Davis said the signs were removed after a traffic study was conducted in the area.
“The signs are not warranted,” he said.
Police continue to investigate the death of Demella and her child. No criminal charges have been filed.
The Demella’s won a trip to South Florida through their church. They attended a marriage conference and decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale an extra day.
The couple’s pastor, Michael Davis, said the couple could barely wait to bring their son into the world.
“If you asked her what she was most excited about in life, it was to be a mom and to experience that with Michael.” Davis told WBZ in Boston. “She was super excited to be a mom.”
Davis said Michael told him he was powerless to help.
“It was painful to see,” Davis said. “He couldn’t get to his wife in time and she was gone.”
Witnesses at the cabana said they tried to help.
“It was shocking, just sitting there minding your own business and one almighty bang,” said hotel guest Joanne Gordon.
She and her husband rushed to help when the car came crashing into the building. They say the woman’s husband, Michael Demella, came out of the men’s room just feet away from his wife.
“He was just saying my wife’s in there, why did this happen, why did this happen?” said witness Darren Gordon.
The Gordons and other hotel guests tried to reach the Demella.
“We all converged trying to rip some of the debris apart to get to the woman. I think it was too late,” lamented Darren.
Mike Riemondi took her pulse and told CBS4′s Natalia Zea he believes she was killed instantly.
“I went and smashed the door, top of the door and she was laying there dead,” said Riemondi.
“That must have been really hard to see,” said Zea.
“Yeah, it’s still bugging me a little bit. Quite a bit,” said Riemondi.
According to CBSBoston.com, Demella was a third grade teacher’s assistant who worked with special education students at an elementary school in Arlington, Mass. On her Twitter page she described herself as “a wife, teacher and follower of Jesus.”
The pastor, Davis, said the couple won the trip because of Demella’s dedication to her faith.
“I had people write how would this be a blessing to their marriage,” Davis said. “The way Alanna had written — she was so excited about her marriage. They wanted one last vacation before their son came.”
Davis said this couple was focused on their family and their faith and there is heartbreak for a man who lost so much.
“They’ve had baby showers, baby gifts, baby clothing,” Davis said. “He’s going to come to a house that is ready to embrace a new family member. The pain of walking into a house without his best friend, it’s going to be devastating.”
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