Florida Keys

After the DUI suspect failed to flee by land, cops say he tried to flee by sea

Nicholas Tralka
Nicholas Tralka Monroe County Sheriff's Office

A Florida Keys DUI suspect did a criminal triathlon, according to cops — trying to escape by vehicle, foot and swim.

Alas, Duck Key resident Nicholas Tralka, 31, proved no Ironman.

After Tralka got pulled out of the water, he went to Monroe County Jail on felony fleeing a law enforcement officer at a high rate of speed; felony fleeing a lawn enforcement officer with lights and siren active; reckless driving; DUI property damage; leaving the scene of a crash involving damage to property; misdemeanor DUI with blood alcohol level of .20 or higher; and resisting an officer, obstruction without violence.

Tralka’s previous rules of the road violations were a $166.25 fine from 2013 for what appears to be using the SunPass toll lanes without a SunPass in the days when cars queued up to drop change in buckets or the hands of toll collectors; a 2014 speeding ticket; and a ticket in May for driving without his seat belt.

Around 4 a.m. Sunday, Monroe County sheriff’s Deputy Corbin Hradecky said he was around 105th Street and U.S. 1 in Marathon when he saw a silver Dodge pickup truck swing out of the parking lot of JJ’s Dog House in Marathon.

“The Dodge exited JJ’s at a high rate of speed, striking the concrete median separating north and southbound lanes,” Hradecky wrote in an arrest report. “I activated my overhead emergency equipment (lights and sirens) to conduct a lawful traffic stop on the Dodge. The Dodge’s right turn signal turned on briefly and began to pull over before taking off at a high rate of speed northbound.

“I continued to pursue the Dodge and observe the Dodge was swerving erratically between both northbound lanes.”

Hradecky estimated Tralka got his Dodge up to 100 mph in a 45 mph zone and began to pull away. He radioed ahead for stop spikes to be put in the road to tear up Tralka’s tires.

After Tralka ran over the spikes, the turn through the Duck Key entrance proved to have too high a degree of difficulty. Tralka hit the Duck Key sign.

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Nichola Tralka’s truck meets the Duck Key entrance around 4 a.m. Sunday Monroe County Sheriff's Office

His driving portion of the chase ended, Tralka scrambled out and turned steeplechase runner — he ran toward a seawall, jumped over it and into the water. Deputies said despite the calls of deputies “he continued to swim away south, towards Tom’s Harbor Channel.”

“After approximately 30 minutes of searching the mangroves and waters for Nicholas, I was approached by a Good Samaritan on the bridge who asked if I was looking for someone in the water,” Hradecky wrote.

That person told Hradecky that a man under the bridge was holding onto the wall. Key Colony Beach police pulled Tralka onto a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat.

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Key Colony Beach Police pull Nicholas Tralka onto a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat Monroe County Sheriff's Office

The report says Tralka refused to do the field sobriety exercises — “I’m already going to jail, so why?” — and he blew a .214 blood alcohol content, well beyond the .08 legal limit.