If you think the Broward Sheriff's Office treats all traffic investigations equally, you might want to consider an accident that occurred on the railroad tracks off Griffin Road near the airport on December 19.
About 6 a.m., a 2007 Ford Explorer carrying at least two joyriding youths went off the road and became stuck on the tracks. Broward Sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene to find the youths, 20-year-old Archibald Ryan IV and Bryan Rogers, whose 20th birthday was that very day. While it's not mentioned on the police report, BSO sources say both had been drinking and were in no shape to drive.
The Explorer was owned by Rogers' family, but he told deputies he wasn't driving. Rogers said the driver had taken off on foot. At some point after the Explorer crashed on the tracks, a rock train with 164 cars came rumbling south down the tracks and struck the Explorer, demolishing it. Nobody was injured. The value of the totaled Explorer was estimated at $20,000.
"Both passengers could not give me any information about the driver or how the vehicle became stuck on the tracks," wrote Dep. Terry Hanstein in a short, two-paragraph accident report.
And that was that. Hanstein and his fellow deputies concluded the investigation on the spot and never determined the identity of the driver. There is no indication that either youth was given a Breathalyzer (underaged drinking is a crime in Florida). To this day, information is sparse since BSO refuses to answer any questions about it. "The report speaks for itself," said BSO spokeswoman Dani Moschella.
Perhaps, but it doesn't say much. The report doesn't mention, for instance, that Bryan Rogers' father arrived on scene that morning. Nor does it specify that Rogers' father is BSO Maj. Larry Rogers, who heads
patrol services in the southern region of the county where the crash occurred.
BSO sources say that Rogers became involved in the investigation and at one point was involved in a verbal altercation with a Florida East Coast Railway officer who was also on the scene to investigate. Those same sources said another deputy had to walk Rogers away from the officer.
FEC police officials would confirm only that the crash occurred but wouldn't discuss the details or issue their report. The railway is a private company and is therefore not subject to Florida's Sunshine Laws.
Any way you look at it, the mere presence of Maj. Rogers at the scene surely influenced the investigation. Rogers refused to answer specific questions about either his actions or his son's actions, including specific ones about whether he became involved in the investigation and whether his son had been drinking. He did, however, offer this written statement:
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Thank you for your interest in my son's well being. Recently he and some friends were involved in a motor vehicle crash. Thankfully no one was injured. I was contacted by our deputies as a courtesy and responded to the scene. I stood by while our deputies and the FEC police conducted their investigation. At the conclusion of their investigation I drove my son and his friend home. The vehicle was towed from the scene and we are attempting to settle our claim with our insurance company. Hopefully my son and his friends learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
Passenger Ryan is the nephew of former state Rep. Tim Ryan of Dania Beach. His father, Archie Ryan, is the politician's law partner and brother.
"I don't know if he was drinking -- maybe he wouldn't have told me if he was," Archie Ryan said of his son, who was home on break from college. "It sounded unusual when he told me about it. I assumed Bryan [Rogers] was driving, but they said he wasn't."
Archie Ryan said he had no idea who was driving the car.