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Driver who fatally struck 12-year-old girl at Satellite Beach crosswalk won’t face charges

82-year-old driver issued moving traffic violation

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – The driver who hit a 12-year-old girl crossing State Road AIA in Satellite Beach was issued moving traffic violation and will not be criminally charged following an investigation into the deadly crash.

Sophia Nelson was crossing near Ellwood Avenue on Dec. 22 with her family when she was hit at the mid-block crosswalk on SR A1A, police said. Sophia was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando where she died of her injuries three days later.

In a news release Tuesday, officials with the Satellite Beach Police Department said the investigation into the fatal pedestrian crash is complete and determined the driver will not face criminal charges.

“The investigation into this tragic case has concluded but we will continue to deeply mourn the loss of Sophia Nelson,” Satellite Beach police Chief Jeff Pearson said.

On left, Sophia Nelson, 12, after donating her hair. On right, another family photo of Sophia. (Images courtesy of Nelson family)
On left, Sophia Nelson, 12, after donating her hair. On right, another family photo of Sophia. (Images courtesy of Nelson family)

The 82-year-old driver was 395 feet from the crosswalk stop bar when Sophia activated the yellow flashing lights, according to the investigation.

[RELATED: FDOT proposes speed limit drop on A1A in Satellite Beach, nearby towns]

The driver began breaking and slowing immediately when the lights were activated but she failed to stop at the crosswalk and told authorities she did not see the victim.

The driver fully cooperated and stayed on the scene after the crash, proving a blood test for any possible substances, which tested negative, according to the news release.

“No criminal charges were filed because there is no evidence that the driver was driving in a dangerous or reckless manner,” according to the news release.

The Cape Canaveral woman was issued a $169 citation for failure to stop at a crosswalk, which requires a court appearance because it resulted in a fatality, police said.

The driver will also be required to complete a driver’s license reexamination process.

Following Sophia’s death, the community called for the removal of the mid-block crosswalks installed by the Florida Department of Transportation with flashing yellow lights and demanding other changes.

Last week, Sophia’s parents appeared before the Florida House State Affairs Committee to urge legislators to support legislation that would change the flashing lights at some crosswalks from yellow to red in an effort to get drivers to stop.

House Bill 1371, filed by Palm Bay Rep. Randy Fine, is called “Sophia’s Law.”

“This police report makes me more determined than ever to get this thing done in Sophia’s name,” Fine said Wednesday.

Sophia was a 6th-grade student at Surfside Elementary School and is sorely missed by her family, friends, parish and her classmates, her family said.

The family said they were able to donate some of Sophia’s organs on Christmas Day, potentially saving lives.

They also released a statement Wednesday evening, saying they forgive the driver who fatally struck Sophia.

“Through this tragic time the Nelson family has leaned on their faith in God and the overwhelming support from family and the community. While it does not repair the pain, through their faith the family has expressed forgiveness of (the driver). In a way, (the driver) was also an unfortunate victim of the confusion and danger that is created by these flashing yellow light mid-block crosswalks, which has been known for many year now. The Nelsons hope to raise awareness for everyone to drive carefully, especially in crosswalks. We remain hopeful that the Legislature and Governor DeSantis will do what is necessary to fix this dangerous problem plaguing our state and prevent more needless tragedies,” the statement read.


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