CRA street party fallout: Mom who died in horrific crash on South Causeway bridge in New Smyrna Beach was drunk

Show me the Money: New Smyrna Beach / Headline Surfer

ME's autopsy report completed in June, but still no police homicide report 

South Causeway fatality in NSB / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer video produced by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / Riccilyn Rigoli, 32, left behind three young girls, when she was killed just after midnight on May 6, in a horrific crash on the South Causeway bridge in New Smyrna Beach, after she and her husband had been partying on Flagler Avenue during the Cinco deMayo street festival, the husband said in a published report. The vehicle her daughters are standing nmexty to in the photo shown in the video was the same one that landed on top of her on the causeway after she was ejected from it at and it rollowed over several times. Below at left is the toxicology showing Rigoli's blood alchol content was .201 (.08 is considered intoxicated) and presence of cocaine in her system at the time of the crash.

Toxicology report on crash fatality victim R. Rigoli shows alcohol/cocaine / Headline SurferNEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Even though the official police homicide traffic report has yet to be turned in, New Smyrna Beach's worst fears have been realized in using taxpayer monies intended to fight blight instead for alcohol-fueled street parties: The horrific death of a 32-year-old Port Orange mother of three young daughters.

Riccilyn Rigoli had a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal threshold for intoxication, when according to her husband, she got behind the wheel of her vehicle after leaving the CRA-funded Cinco de Mayo street party on Flagler Avenue and crashed into the concrete barrier on the crest of the South Causeway bridge.

Both were ejected from the vehicle which rolled several times before landing on her already crumpled body.

Headline Surfer learned Friday of the toxicology from the autopsy performed by the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office, which showed her BAC was .201, nearly three times the .08 for driving under the influence of alcohol in Florida. The toxicology also showed Rigoli had cocaine in her system.  

The autopsy report was signed as completed on June 12, yet even this morning, New Smyrna Beach police were repeating the refrain they've been saying for the past six weeks: "We are still waiting on the toxicology reports," the police department's assigned PIO and Master Sgt. Eugene Griffith wrote to the 24/7 internet newspaper in an 8:19 email message from his smart phone.

S. Causeway fatality / Headline SurferNSB rollover fatality in NSB / Headline SurferA preliminary accident report obtained by the 24/7 Internet newspaper from the New Smyrna Beach PD the following day, stated the fatality victim, Riccilyn Rigoli and her husband, Donald J. Rigoli, 34, were ejected from their Ford Explorer Sport pick-up truck as it rolled over several times before coming to rest on its side and directly on top of her. The mother of three young daughters -- ages 7, 10, and 11 -- was pronounced dead on scene.

The medical examiner ruled Rigoli's cause of death as "multiple blunt traumatic injuries" as a result of the accident.

Medical examiner's autopsy report on R. Rigoli killed May 6 in DUi crash in NSB / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer graphic (autopsy/toxicology information gathered, copyright protection asserted) / At left is the summary of the Medical Examiner's autopsy of Riccilyn Rigoli, whose May 6, cause of death was ruled as "multiple blunt traumatic injuries" as a result of the single-vehicle crash on the South Causeway bridge. The toxicology results shown above revealed her level off alcohol intoxication was nearly three times as the legal limit for drinking and driving and she had cocaine in her system as well.  

New Smyrna Beach police investigators from the onset said they couldn't officially comment as to which of the two were driving though they said the husband told them Rigoli was behind the wheel and it was her personal vehicle.

Though he was airlifted from the scene by the Volusia County Sheriff's Air-1 helicopter, he was well enough to speak by phone with a Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter who called into the emergency room the following day.

In a story headlined, "Crash kills Port Orange mom on ride home from NSB Cinco de Mayo party," the News-Journal story posted 9:31 p.m. May 7, pulled no punches from the first paragraph in connecting the CRA event with the subsequent fatality: After a night on the town having a few drinks, a Port Orange couple were on their way home early Monday when their pickup went out of control on New Smyrna Beach's South Causeway bridge and crashed, killing a 32-year-old mother of three, her husband said.

Headline Surfer was the first media outlet to report on the 12:45 a.m single-vehicle crash that resulted in the death of Rigoli, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the horrific rollover in the westbound lanes of the high-rise bridge.

A preliminary accident report obtained by the 24/7 Internet newspaper from the New Smyrna Beach PD stated the fatality victim and her husband, Donald J. Rigoli, 34, were ejected from their Ford Explorer Sport pick-up truck as it rolled over several times before coming to rest on its side and directly on top of her.

The mother of three young daughters -- ages 7, 10, and 11 -- was pronounced dead on scene. Her husband, found some 30 feet from the mangled vehicle, was airlifted to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach as a precaution for potential life-threatening internal injuries, but he was released from the ER later in the day Monday after treatment for bumps and bruises.

Neither had been wearing their seat belts and the police report stated witnesses on the road at the time reported the vehicle had been going at a high rate of speed when it ascended the bridge, before striking the median barrier and repeatedly rolling over.

An initial police report stated officers who responded to the scene were unsure which of the two was behind the wheel leading up to the crash, but Donald Rigoli told the News-Journal in a phone interview from the hospital that his wife was driving when she lost control and struck the bridge's median concrete barrier.

“All I know is we were out-of-control and we began to flip over,” Rigoli told the print newspaper, adding, “I was being tossed from the front to the back, it was crazy.”

The News-Journal then attributed to Rigoli where the couple had been coming from as follows: Rigoli said the couple were headed home to their Brimfield Court home after an evening at the Cinco de Mayo party on Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach.

Cinco De Mayo was a daylong festival on Flagler, one of six such annual events funded in part by the Community Redevelopment Agency. The Rigolis had only been married for two years and recently moved to Port Orange from New Smyrna Beach where she had raised her children for the better part of 10 years.

A woman carries her drink by her side as an NSB cop car passes by during the 2011 New Year's eve celebration on Flagler Avenue.

New Smyrna Beach has spent upwards of $2 million in Community Redevelopment Agency funds on either rehabbing of existing bars and restaurants or the building of new ones, including upwards of half a million in advertising of half-a-dozen yearly alcohol-fueled street parties in the past five years, such as Cinco de Mayo, Halloween Creepy Crawl, New Year's Eve fireworks and several others.

In one such funding approval, Mayor Adam Barringer and the commissioners unanimously approved $60,000 in CRA funding in October for the mayor's boyhood friend, Dave Fernandez, for a new facade for his Flagler Avenue Trader's bar.

The mayor, himself an admitted DUI offender when he was much younger, owns two wine-bar restaurants and has been a big supporter of the Flagler Avenue street parties and the CRA funding used to support them.

Barringer has repeatedly refused comment on the issue and has remained silent on the Cinco de Mayo fatality. Neither the mayor nor City Manager Pamela Brangaccio returned a message for comment this morning. Neither did Commissioners Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty, Jason McGuirk or Kirk Jones, all in the same email inquiry.

Besides the CRA funding, in past years, the merchants of Flagler Avenue have counted on the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority for tens of thousands more annually for the same events, but two years, the SVAA started cutting back and last year, the merchants got no funding as the authority seeks more family-friendly events that promote overnight stays for the allocation of bed tax monies.

Besides the CRA funding, in past years, the merchants of Flagler Avenue have counted on the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority for tens of thousands more annually for the same events, but two years, the SVAA started cutting back and last year, the merchants got no funding as the authority seeks more family-friendly events that promote overnight stays for the allocation of bed tax monies.

Headline Surfer has published dozens of videos showing bar patrons walking in and out of the half dozen bars with open containers of alcohol -- even beer bottles - without fear of being written up or arrested for violating the open container law, a misdemeanor.

Headline Surfer (NSBNews.net) photos and video by Henry Frederick / Video produced by Multimedia Editor Sera Frederick. This was the scene of New Year's Eve before the ringing in of 2012 on Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, including this couple, standing on the public sidewalk and holding glass mugs with beer purchased in the Om Bar behind them. The internet newspaper had to nudge a cop to react to what was so obvious right in front of him and several other officers -- blatant violation of the open container law.

The drinking on Flagler Avenue was particularly heavy during the New Year's Eve celebrations each of the last two years.

In one instance, Headline Surfer actually walked up to a cop and asked him if he was going to do anything about two patrons who stepped out of the Om Bar with glass mugs of beer in their hand -- considered deadly missiles. After prompting from the internet newspaper with its video camera running, the officer walked up to them and had them go back inside with the beers. He then spoke to the bouncer at the front door and for he rest of the evening, a cop car was parked directly across the street from the bar.

Headline Surfer spoke to several administrators in other local police agencies who said short of making an actual arrest, the officer could have had them pour out their beers on the sidewalk and then have them bring the mugs back into the bar under threat of arrest.

After that New Year's event, then-PIO and Lt. Michael Brouillette told Headline Surfer in a prepared statement two days later, after the videos showing no enforcement published with a story, "If they see a violation they take action, adding, "whether that is to write a ticket or make them pour out the alcohol." Asked in a follow-up interview that day how many tickets were issued, Brouillette said he didn't have information readily available.

A review of the police department's 24-hour log, which Headline Surfer publishes daily, showed no ticketing for carrying an open container on New Year's eve and the overnight. It also showed no written warnings were issued either.

Being in possession of an open container, is a misdemeanor that carries a $103 fine, if convicted. It also requires a trip to jail.

Headline Surfer video produced by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / A  Halloween bash for the bars on Flagler had patrons drinking outside them as well as shown in this 2011 video.
 

Two years ago, then-City Commissioner Lynne Plaskett and Jack Grasty confronted Headline Surfer before the start of a commission meeting inquiring as to whether the internet newspaper lured patrons from the bars as some merchant leaders had claimed following the Halloween Creepy Crawl.

Headline Surfer responded the accusation was meritless and the videos bore that out.

Headline Surfer video produced by Serafina Frederick / When the brief fireworks show ended on New Year's Eve to ring in 2013, the drinking on Flagler on the public sidewalk and roadway itself had reached a fevered pitch. And not a single arrest was made for violation of the open container law as people partied well into the morning.

When New Year's Eve rolled around, the increase in public drinking had become so pronounced, the commissioners and the mayor were no longer talking, period.

And Jason McGuirk, who was seated in November when no one else qualified the previous June to run, pulled a Dairy Queen ad he had paid for with Headline Surfer because he said he was getting pressure from Flagler Avenue bar owners not to support the internet newspaper.

When McGuirk, the father of two young children was asked if he had attended these alcohol-themed street parties, he responded, "I wouldn't take them to something like that."

That was more than a yrear ago. Since then, lik his elected colleagues, he's remained silent on the issue of CRA taxpayer dollars being used for alchol street parties.

Dist. 3 County Council member Deb Denys did not return a message today for comment on how the fatality could play into future CRA district funding as New Smyrna Beach's current 30-year CRA sunsets in 2015.

County Chair Jason Davis, like Denys, elected in November, said as far as he's concerned, he will not supported any future CRA funding requests that include the enhancement of bars or advertising of related street parties.

"We can't un-ring the bell for what happened in the city of New Smyrna Beach with the what they used the CRA funding for and a tragedy like this," Davis said, adding, "Trust me, I'm not going to be ringing any new bells for this kind of funding for parties in the street in the future."  

Volusia County Chair Jason Davis / Henry FrederickHeadline Surfer photo / Volusia County Chair Jaon Davis on CRA-funding used for alcohol-fueled street parties:

"We can't un-ring the bell for what happened in the city of New Smyrna Beach with the what they used the CRA funding for and a tragedy like this," Davis said, adding, "Trust me, I'm not going to be ringing any new bells for this kind of funding for parties in the street in the future."  

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.