Police allege Nick Bollea, the 17-year-old son of wrestling star Terrence "Hulk Hogan" Bollea, 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 Nick was released from the hospital on Monday, his vehicle's front-seat passenger -- 22-year-old active-duty Marine John J. Graziano -- remained in critical condition as of late Tuesday night at St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center, Tampa Bay's Fox affiliate WTVT-TV reported. Sources told WTVT that Graziano is in a coma and needs emergency surgery, however swelling on his brain has prevented doctors from operating.
No new information regarding Clearwater police's investigation into the crash was released Tuesday, the St. Petersburg Timesreported Wednesday. However that hasn't stopped the Hogan family from retaining J. Kevin Hayslett -- a Clearwater criminal defense specialist who also handles driving-under-the-influence cases, according toThe Tampa Tribune. Hayslett confirmed to The Tribune he was representing the family but declined further comment.
Police had previously stated that although Nick had not exhibited any "overt signs of impairment" at the crash scene, drugs or alcohol had not yet been ruled out as a contributing factor. Police spokesman Wayne Shelor had also previously told the Times that there "was no obvious evidence [Nick] was racing" at the time of the crash, however Shelor -- citing the fact that the investigation remains ongoing -- declined to offer additional comment on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. So far, no charges have been filed.
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.
"If you're going in excess of those speed limits you run the risk of bumping into something or crashing," Pinellas Park Police Capt. Sandfield Forseth told WTVT. "It's very dangerous on the roads as it is, and to combine speed with it, the crashes are pretty tremendous when speed is involved."
Although records show Nick's license was restricted for six months due to the speeding infractions, according to WTVT, he is allowed to drive during daylight hours, and it was still daylight when Sunday evening's crash occurred.
Despite Shelor's previous statement that there was no "obvious evidence" that Nick was racing at the time of the crash, multiple eyewitnesses have alleged they spotted his Toyota Supra racing a silver Dodge Viper prior to the crash.
Frances Vitalis, who was driving home from Clearwater Beach on a motorcycle with a friend on Sunday night, told the Times she witnessed the Supra and Viper "speeding between traffic lights" and stated the local roads were "slick" due to scattered showers.
"We knew something was going to happen," she told the Times. "You know that this is a bad situation and these guys are hotdogging." Vitalis added she ran to Nick's Supra following the crash, however was unable to extract its passengers because "the car was so mangled" the doors wouldn't open. The Jaws of Life were subsequently used by medical personnel to remove both passengers from the vehicle.
Rabih Cheaib, who was one of the first eyewitnesses to speak with reporters following the crash, told the Times he estimated the Supra and Viper were traveling "faster than 60 MPH" in the 40 MPH zone. Cheaib added that -- as a former street racer -- the vehicles speeding down the strip were "nothing new" and he chalked it up to "those crazy kids."
"I thought it was pretty sweet," he told the Times. However his attitude presumably changed when he learned who Nick's passenger was, as he told the Times Graziano's brother Mike is his best friend. Cheaib described Graziano as "quiet but outgoing," into "anything that gives an adrenaline rush," and regularly attended Toyota Supra meets.
Cheaib had previously alleged that Nick was speeding during a crash-scene interview with Tampa Bay's WTSP-TV CBS affiliate.
Making Graziano's current physical condition even worse is the fact that the Marine only returned home in October after serving two tours of duty in Iraq. Sgt. Maj. Edgardo Guzman served with Graziano, and he told the Times when they first met that Graziano was transporting Marines and equipment as a truck driver and then joined a Tampa Marine reserve unit.
"He could have just went home and got a civilian job and went to college [after his first tour]," Guzman told the Times about Graziano. "He decided to join the local reserve unit and continue to be a Marine and serve his country."
A prayer vigil for Graziano is reportedly scheduled for this evening at 7PM on Court Street, which is where the Sunday evening crash occurred.