An SUV parked on a scarp above an eroded section of beach at Seaside Park in Fernandina Beach Thursday shares the oceanfront space with pedestrians and sunbathers. Peg Davis/News-Leader


A woman from Ohio was run over Tuesday afternoon as she sunbathed on a short stretch of beach where parking is allowed near Seaside Park in Fernandina Beach. The driver, Gregory Lee Green Jr., “immediately fled the scene, even after being told by a witness that he had run over the victim,” according to a news release from Police Chief James Hurley, who said that “at least three witnesses” gave information to his officers.

The woman was lying on the popular beach “just east of where the sand drops off toward the ocean,” according to Hurley, when, at approximately 1:30 p.m., witnesses reported that Green drove his silver Jeep Cherokee “eastbound toward the ocean and bounded off the raised sand to the sand below, striking the victim and running over her as she lay on the beach. The driver then accelerated rapidly and turned back to the west and drove toward the beach parking entrance.”

Detective Michelle Arseneau said she contacted the witness who spoke to Green, who told Arseneau she saw the Jeep “on the beach and heard a lady screaming for help. The lady was screaming that the Jeep had just run over her. ... The witness approached the driver of the Jeep and advised him that he should not be driving because he just ran over a lady.”

The witness also told Arseneau she then left the driver to aid the victim.

“The woman suffered three broken ribs and a blood clot in her chest,” according to the report. She was transported to UF Health Jacksonville.

Green’s vehicle’s license tag was registered at an address near the scene. When officers from the Fernandina Beach Police Department and Nassau County Sheriff’s Office went to the address, Green at first refused to answer the door, according to a report from the FBPD, but came out of the house later after the homeowner reached him on his cell phone.

After Green was read his rights, the police report says that Gregory stated he had driven his Jeep to the Sadler Road Beach Access, was told by someone he had run over “a boy,” but “denied running over a boy and left the scene.”

Bond for Green was set at $50,002 Wednesday, and Judge James H. Daniel temporarily assigned a public defender to Green’s case. Green was also ordered to have no contact with the victim.

This was the second report within a month of someone on an Amelia Island beach being struck by a vehicle.

A sunbather enjoying the beach at Peters Point Beachfront Park in April was also run over, according to a report from Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper. Amanda Gonzalez, 38, of St. Marys, Ga., was about 300 feet east of the driveway access to the beach at approximately 4:26 p.m. when an unknown Jeep Wrangler was traveling southbound on the beach near the shoreline. The left front tire of the Jeep traveled over Gonzalez’s legs, according to Leeper.

The Jeep left the scene and exited the beach at Peters Point Beachfront Park heading toward State Road 200/A1A (South Fletcher Avenue). Witnesses described the vehicle as a newer model Jeep Wrangler, either white or light gray in color, with a black canvas top and a spare tire on the back. There appeared to be two people inside.

Gonzalez was transported by Nassau County Fire-Rescue to Baptist Medical Center Nassau where she was treated for injuries to her legs.

That incident is still under investigation. Leeper asks anyone who has information or knows the whereabouts of the vehicle to call the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office at (904) 225-5174.

Hurley said Wednesday he is on the record that, from a public safety perspective, he does not like the idea of sunbathers and vehicles in the same area.

“It’s inevitable that we are going to have a tragic accident. You don’t have to be a genius to see that coming. ... I have read of so many of these accidents where, oftentimes, these sunbathers are killed. What seems to be the reality is, like yesterday, when it was breezy or windy, sunbathers don’t want to be hit by blowing sand so they put their towel in a depression where they are shielded a little bit, but they are also shielding themselves from the vision of the driver. This bank of sand was probably three- or four-feet high where the erosion occurs on the beach. (This woman) was on the low side. ... These things don’t happen frequently, but they are not uncommon. With that in mind, I would caution anybody that is going to the beach to sunbathe to be careful about laying their blankets in depressions or under sandbanks. In fact, I would caution them to take their blanket all the way out of the vehicle area.”

Read our related article: Should driving and camping on the beach continue?

See News Leader article . . .