PANAMA CITY BEACH — The motorist who struck and killed two children while they were on a Panama City Beach miniature golf course in 2020 had an epileptic seizure and committed no crimes, a team of investigators has determined.
Larry Basford, state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit, announced Friday that Scott Allen Donaldson would not face criminal charges and that there was no evidence a crime had been committed in the Dec. 4, 2020, deaths of 6-year-old Addie and 4-year-old Baylor Kirchgessner at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. The two siblings were visiting with their parents from Louisville, Kentucky, at the time of the crash.
"Our investigation determined that the driver of the vehicle had an epileptic seizure, lost control of his truck and struck the children,” Basford said during a Friday press conference. “Early on, there were rumors and misconceptions about this crash, including that the driver had been drinking. There was no evidence of that, it simply is not true.”
Basford said a Critical Incident Review Team comprised of senior prosecutors and investigators, along with members of the Panama City Beach Police Department, thoroughly investigated every avenue of the case.
“Based on the facts of this investigation as applied to the law, there is insufficient evidence to file criminal charges,” Basford said.
Charges that had been under consideration included DUI-manslaughter, manslaughter by culpable negligence and vehicular homicide.
Basford said an analysis of the driver’s blood by three different entities, Ascension Sacred Heart Bay, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and National Medical Service Labs, revealed Donaldson had no alcohol or any illegal controlled substances in his system at the time of the crash.
However, he did have a therapeutic amount of his seizure medication in his system.
Also, an analysis of the driver’s cellphone records indicated he was not texting or talking on his phone at the time of the crash, Basford said.
Eyewitnesses to the crash have stated the driver was not speeding or driving erratically before the seizure.
Witnesses who saw Donaldson immediately after the crash said he was experiencing seizure-like symptoms. While at the emergency room, he had another epileptic seizure that was observed and documented by a doctor.
The investigation revealed Donaldson has had epilepsy for more than 20 years. During that time, he had three prior traffic crashes (2011, 2016, 2018) caused by seizures, but at the time of the PCB crash, the DHSMV had restored his privilege to drive. Interviews with the three physicians who treated Donaldson for his epilepsy showed they were all aware of the seizures and crashes, but in their opinion, he was safe to drive, Basford said.
“In fact, just two days before this fatal crash, Donaldson saw his neurologist for a routine visit and was authorized to continue to perform his daily activities, which included driving,” Basford said.
Donaldson’s driver’s license is currently suspended. He could apply to the DHSMV tomorrow to have his driving privileges restored under current law, just as he did after previous crashes, and the state attorney’s office would have no role in that decision, Basford said.
“To that end, I have written a letter to the DHSMV Medical Advisory Review Board requesting that Donaldson’s driver’s license be permanently revoked and that they consider changing their rules so that drivers with similar histories not be allowed to drive in Florida,” Basford said.
Basford said he appreciated the patience of the family and the public while the investigation was conducted into such a complicated set of circumstances.
“Most of us here have children and what happened on Dec. 4, 2020, is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Basford said. “While I cannot begin to fully comprehend or fathom the family’s pain and grief, the magnitude of this tragedy was not lost on us during this process and we continue to hold the family in our prayers.”
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: No charges against motorist who struck, killed two kids at golf course