While Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor did not identify the Viper's driver, the St. Petersburg Timesreported Nick's father -- wrestling star Terrence "Hulk Hogan" Bollea -- was not behind the wheel.
"Mr. Bollea was not in the car, was not driving the Viper and had no proximity to the wreck," Shelor said on Wednesday, according to the Times.
The statement was needed due to the fact that Florida state records show the elder Hogan owns three Vipers: a 1994 roadster, a 2003 roadster and a 2006 roadster coupe. Despite being cleared by police as the Viper's potential driver, the Times reported police have not said if the wrestler owns the vehicle involved in the crash. Pinellas County -- the Florida county that includes Clearwater -- has only about 130 registered Viper vehicles (many of them presumably not in silver), according to the Times.
On Wednesday night, Tampa Bay's WTVT-TV Fox affiliate broadcast photographs that reportedly show Nick driving his Supra alongside a silver Viper registered to his father on Saturday evening. According to the eyewitness that took the photographs, the Supra and the Viper -- which was reportedly not being driven by Nick's father -- were street racing at the time the photos were taken.
Although police have not publicly identified who was driving the Viper at the time of Nick's Sunday evening crash, Rabih Cheaib -- a local resident who was one of the first eyewitnesses to speak with reporters following the incident -- told the Times he saw the vehicle return to the scene after Nick's Supra crashed. Cheaib told the newspaper that he he recognized the Viper's driver as Danny Jacobs, a nearby Dunedin resident that he knows through friends, but said he did not know if Jacobs was behind the Viper's wheel at the time of the crash.
"He was upset," said Cheaib, who told the Times he saw the police interview Jacobs at the crash scene on Sunday. "His head was down most of the time."
Cheaib, an admitted former street racer, told WTVT he stopped street racing after having his driver's license revoked for five years.
Police allege Nick was speeding in a Toyota Supra around 7:30PM on Sunday in Clearwater, FL when he lost control and hit a raised median, spinning the vehicle and causing its rear end to strike a palm tree. While he was released from Bayfront Medical Center on Monday, his front-seat passenger -- 22-year-old U.S. Marine John Graziano -- still remains in critical condition in a medically-induced coma, according to the Times.
"It's just a matter of time. It's going to take time," Ashley Berry, Graziano's longtime girlfriend, told a crowd of gatherers at a Wednesday night vigil, according to WTVT. "He's progressing little by little, and we just need everyone to keep praying. He is in critical condition. He is in ICU and we just need everyone to pray."
"It's been rough. It's been restless," Berry said of her own bedside vigil. "We've had great people delivering food and stuff. I'm not leaving [the hospital], I'm sleeping on the chairs and stuff."
Graziano "hasn't been responsive" since the crash, Barbara Cognetti, a Berry family neighbor who organized the vigil, toldThe Tampa Tribune. Earlier this week, Graziano's grandmother Catherine told the newspaper that her grandson may have suffered brain damage in the crash.
Nick and his family have visited Graziano "several times" since his Sunday evening hospitalization, Tampa Bay's WFTF-TV ABC affiliate reported Thursday, however no Hogan family members attended Wednesday evening's vigil. Nick's whereabouts since being discharged from his own hospitalization on Monday are fairly well known, however what he had been doing prior to the Sunday evening crash had remained a public mystery until Thursday.
Gerri Shephard -- manager at Clearwater Beach resort Shephard's -- told the Times that Nick, his father and at least one friend were at the establishment on Sunday between 5PM and 7PM, adding they stayed on a boat outside the tiki bar. In addition, she claimed Nick and a friend attempted to enter the tiki bar but were refused entrance because they lacked proper identification.
On Wednesday, J. Kevin Hayslett -- a Clearwater criminal defense specialist who also handles driving-under-the-influence cases -- confirmed the Hogan family had retained his services, but he has yet to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Nick has received three speeding tickets in the last year, according to Florida state driving records. Last September, he was ticketed for driving 105 MPH in a 70 MPH zone in Collier County; in February, he was cited for driving 57 MPH in a 30 MPH zone in Dade County; and in April, he was ticketed for driving 106 MPH in a 70 MPH zone in Osceola County.
According to the Times, Pinellas Park, FL police also cited Nick for a fourth speeding offense on August 10 -- a 82 MPH in a 45 MPH zone violation that, due to its pending court status, does not yet appear on his state record. He's reportedly due to appear in court on September 10 for the Pinellas Park offense, which took place in a construction zone that had workers present. He was also cited for not wearing a seat belt when he was stopped.
Due to his speeding history, Nick's license had reportedly already been restricted to daylight-only driving, according to WTVT, however it was still daylight when Sunday evening's crash occurred.
"Let's just say I have a terrible driving record," Nick openly boasted to RIDES Magazine in an interview published in the magazine's September 2007 issue. During the interview -- which centered around the discussion of a nine-car collection that Nick, who just turned 17 years old last month, presented as his own -- he appeared to recount the events that led to one of his recent speeding tickets.
"In my silver Viper, I was driving from Miami to Tampa," he told RIDES. "I got pulled over going 107 [MPH] and the guy let me off. He's like, 'Hey, I know who you are, just keep going, ya know.' Dude, I got back on the road and two minutes later I get pulled over going 113 [MPH]. Another highway patrol from the same county said, 'I just heard on the radio that my buddy pulled you over and let you go. I'ma let you go this time. It's your second warning. You get pulled over again, you're probably going to go to jail.'"
"Three minutes later, [I was] doing 123 [MPH] in a 50 [MPH zone]. The guy is like, 'Hey, I just heard you got pulled over twice in the last 10 minutes. I got to write you a ticket.'"
Charges have yet to be filed from the Sunday night crash, the Times reported.
(Photo credit VH1)
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