In a recent motor accident, 2011 IFBB Bikini Olympia Champion, Nicole K. Nagrani took a person’s life when she struck them with her vehicle. Though a death was involved, Nicole was issued only a ticket.
Here Is The Story As Reported At:
Family of Port Orange woman killed in crash upset driver only gets ticket
“A motorist who was reportedly trying to retrieve her cellphone when she struck and killed a woman crossing Ridgewood Avenue in Port Orange should face more punishment than a traffic citation, according to the victim’s relatives.
Nicole K. Nagrani, 21, was heading south on South Ridgewood Avenue in her sport utility vehicle on April 11, 2013, when she hit Leona E. Daniluk as the 78-year-old Port Orange resident tried to walk across the highway at White Place. But a traffic homicide investigation concluded that Nagrani’s actions were not reckless, a standard needed for a vehicular homicide charge.
Nagrani’s attorney, Tim Herring, drove to the accident site and told police that “… Nagrani was not using her cellular phone at the time of the crash, but that the phone had fallen and she was attempting to retrieve it.”
Daniluk’s daughter, Tina Melnicoff, said a ticket was insufficient and that Nagrani should serve some prison time.
“I don’t see no fairness of it, if she does get a ticket,” Melnicoff said. “She should get more than a ticket. The girl, if she was paying attention that morning driving instead of trying to retrieve her cellphone, she would have had time to stop or swerve or even hit the median.”
Nagrani is due in court before County Judge Christopher Kelly on Oct. 10 for a hearing on the traffic citation when, if found guilty, she will face a $1,000 fine and six-month suspension of her driver’s license. The hearing will come nine days after a Florida law which took effect today and tightening the use of cellphones. The law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers can only be ticketed for texting and driving if they are stopped for a different violation. The fine is $30.
The new texting law is weak and won’t make much of a difference in legal battles, said David Tirella, an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law.
“To me it’s just watered down,” Tirella said. “It’s kind of a feel good. There are a lot of exceptions.”
But Nagrani was not using her cellphone but rather trying to retrieve it, according to Herring. Neither Nagrani nor Herring could not be reached for this story.
The actions of Nagrani — an International Federation of Body Builders “Bikini Pro” competitor — did not rise to recklessness, which would have allowed for a filing of vehicular homicide, said Matthew Jones, an assistant city attorney with Port Orange. Investigators subpoenaed Nagrani’s phone records and concluded she was not using her phone at the time of the crash.
The statement that Nagrani was trying to retrieve her cellphone likely would not be admissible in court because of attorney/client privilege, and because of an exception which does not allow the use of comments made in an initial accident report, Jones said.
“Would that in and of itself be reckless, I can’t tell you,” Jones said. “I can’t make that determination but is it getting closer? Yes.”
Jones said recklessness would require stringing several things together, not just one action. He also said there was no criminal intent.
“When you are talking about putting someone in jail for something, you really need some sort of proof into criminal conduct,” Jones said. “That was not there in this case.”
The accident was captured by a security camera video from the Primary Care Center of Port Orange where Daniluk had just had some blood work done. The video shows a figure identified as Daniluk walking from a strip center to Ridgewood Avenue and then taking her time as she waits for a clearing in the traffic. It’s about 9 a.m. and the day is clear and bright.
A pickup and a large SUV pass by. The section of southbound Ridgewood Avenue on the video appears clear. Daniluk begins to cross and then stops. The two southbound lanes are clear based on the section of the road appearing in the video. Then she begins to walk across Ridgewood Avenue. The time on the video shows the last seconds of her life tick away. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Nagrani’s black SUV enters the video frame in the inside lane. Seven. Eight. Daniluk has nearly reached the median when the SUV hits her. Nagrani pulls her Porsche Cayenne to the outside lane and stops.
Daniluk’s injuries were “consistent” with the SUV traveling about 30 mph in the 45 mph zone, the report said. There were no skid marks and no indications that Nagrani tried to take evasive action.
Nagrani, who on her Facebook page says she aspires to be a physician, told police she was on her way from her home in Daytona Beach to shadow a doctor in New Smyrna Beach.
Port Orange police asked Nagrani whether she would consent to a voluntary blood draw but she declined and “invoked her right to counsel,” the police report stated. Nagrani did not show any signs of impairment, the report states.
The Porsche Nagrani was driving was owned by Dr. Mark Nagrani and his insurance company settled with Daniluk’s survivors for $255,000, said Brian Toung, who represented Daniluk’s children.
“Number one, she wasn’t paying attention when she was driving because if she was she wouldn’t retrieved her phone while she was driving so she broke the law by taking her eyes off the road. By her doing that she killed an innocent woman,” Tina Melnicoff said.
Melnicoff’s husband, Mike Melnicoff, said Nagrani should have waited for a red light or pulled over to pick up her phone.
“You are basically driving blindfolded you don’t see anything in front of you because you are not looking out the windshield like you should,” he said.”