Venus Williams, who is readying to make her 20th Wimbledon appearance on Monday, opened up about a fatal car crash she was involved in earlier this month that left a 78-year-old man dead.
“I am devasted [sic] and heartbroken by this accident,” she wrote on Facebook on Friday night, speaking of the June 9 incident in which police determined she was “at fault.”
“My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Jerome Barson and I continue to keep them in my thoughts and prayers,” she added, referring to the man in the other vehicle involved in the incident who died on June 23 after a 14-day stay in the hospital.
Williams’s statement comes as news broke that the Barson’s wife had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against her, saying her husband’s death came “as a result of the negligence” on the tennis star’s part, the Palm Beach Post reports. According to TMZ, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit, Linda Barson is seeking unspecified damages for loss of companionship for both her and her family, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and medical and funeral expenses.
Michael Steinger, a lawyer for Linda Barson, is asking that police turn over evidence from the crash, which took place in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“At this point, we are attempting to both preserve the evidence and gain access to evidence,” Michael Steinger said on “Good Morning America.” “There were video cameras placed at guardhouses where Ms. Williams lives, police have refused after multiple requests to turn those over to us, and we would like to see visual portrayal of the accident on those videos. They have impounded all the vehicles and have impeded our ability to do our investigation and move forward. Not sure what their reasoning is. They have refused to turn them over to us at this point.”
Court records obtained by the Palm Beach Post show that Barson’s family listed “the expectation of recovery in an action for wrongful death” as his lone asset in a petition on behalf of his estate filed Tuesday. There was no amount of money listed.
According to the police report, witnesses told investigators that Williams ran a red light in her 2010 Toyota Sequoia SUV right when a car driven by Linda Barson entered the intersection on a green light at a speed that has not been announced by police
“The driver of V2 (Barson) advised she proceeded thru the intersection when V1 (Williams) cut across in front of V2, and V2 was unable to avoid crashing into V1,” the police report said, per the Palm Beach Post.
Jerome Barson, who was listed as a tennis professional on his death certificate, died two weeks after the crash, as a result of the internal bleeding, a fractured spine and massive internal organ damage he suffered as a passenger. Williams, who was unhurt, told investigators she entered the six-lane intersection on a green light but was forced to stop because of the traffic ahead of her. She said she did not see the Barsons’ car when she crossed into their lanes.
The police report says Williams was driving around 5 mph when the crash occurred, and there’s no evidence that alcohol, drugs or texting caused the crash. Still, the police report deemed Williams responsible for the incident because she didn’t have the right of way.
Police in Palm Beach Gardens still are investigating the crash, and no criminal charges have been filed. Legal expert Areva Martin told ABC that they probably won’t be.
“To be charged criminally in an automobile accident, there has to be a finding of reckless or wanton conduct,” Martin said, per ESPN. “None of that appears to be the case, so it’s unlikely she’d be held criminally responsible for the death of the man.”
An attorney for Williams told the Palm Beach Post on Friday that he was aware of the lawsuit but wouldn’t be commenting further. He released a statement Thursday.
“The police report estimated that Ms. Williams was traveling at 5 miles per hour when Mrs. Barson crashed into her,” F. Malcolm Cunningham Jr. said. “This is an unfortunate accident and Venus expresses her deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one.”
Williams currently is in London, where she will compete as planned next week, her publicist told the Associated Press. The 37-year-old is a six-time Wimbledon champion, but the only past champion in the men’s or women’s draws who is not scheduled to appear at pre-tournament news conferences on Saturday or Sunday.
Williams, the 10th seed, will face Belgian Elise Mertens in the first round.
Staff writer Marissa Payne contributed to this report.