Police sergeant was speeding ahead of fatal crash, report finds

A Delray Beach police sergeant who died in a horrific crash in February west of Boca Raton was running late for his early-morning shift, speeding at 70 mph and not wearing his seat belt, according to a final investigation released Wednesday.

Sgt. Adam Rosenthal, 39, also may have been distracted by his in-car computer, which was turned on just minutes before the 6:15 a.m. crash, the report concluded.

Rosenthal lost control of his police cruiser on Southwest 18th Street, west of Florida’s Turnpike, on Feb. 17, and the car began yawing back and forth in the road before the passenger’s side slammed into a tree in the median.

The speed limit for that curved section of the road is 45 mph, but the patrol car’s computer showed under later analysis that Rosenthal was speeding at approximately 70 mph in the moments before the crash, according to the report by Palm Beach County sheriff’s traffic-homicide investigators.

The roads may have been damp, but weather was not a factor in the crash, and toxicology tests showed Rosenthal was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the report says.

Initially, it appeared Rosenthal was wearing his seat belt, because the belt had been sliced in two — Rosenthal had to be cut out of the smashed car. But the car’s computer indicated the belt was not buckled, and investigators concluded that the belt was not being worn because the cut matched the length of the belt if it were not extended, and glass particles — not the latch — were found in the buckle.

Rosenthal’s death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head, according to the autopsy report.

Following the crash, Delray Beach police instituted additional driver training for their officers, police spokeswoman Nicole Guerriero said.

Every driver, civilian and sworn officers alike, should learn from the circumstances surrounding the crash, she said.

“It was a tragedy and huge loss for our department. You could not find a greater person than Adam Rosenthal,” Guerriero said. “It is a lesson for us, and for everybody, that you need to slow down and pay attention. It can happen to anybody.”

Rosenthal, of Parkland, was married and a father of four. There was an outpouring of support for his wife, Joanne, and his family, and several fundraisers were held by the law enforcement community.

Rosenthal was a 16-year veteran of the department, and served on the SWAT team, with the narcotics unit and as a community patrol supervisor. He also was a longtime police union representative.

Known as “gentle giant” because he stood well over 6 feet tall, Rosenthal taught martial arts to children and self-defense to women and police recruits.

pfranceschina@tribune.com or 561-243-6605

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/parkland/fl-delray-officer-fatal-crash-20111214,0,3773434.story?track=rss

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