On Sunday afternoon, November 10, after participating in the Heroes Weekend volleyball tournament on Gulfport Beach, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent was involved in a motor vehicle accident on I-275 and sustained multiple injuries.
The accident is being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and a full report was unavailable at press time.
On Wednesday morning, November 13, the Gabber spoke to Vincent over the phone from Bayfront hospital, where he was taken by ambulance after the accident.
“I have a broken collar bone, three broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung,” he told the Gabber. According to Vincent, he received surgery on his collar bone, but his lung was mending on its own and he expected to be discharged that day.
Of the accident the chief said, “It was bad news.”
According to Vincent he was riding his motorcycle on the exit ramp for 118th Avenue on I-275 when the incident occurred.
“They’re doing construction there so all of the lane markings are changed and they’re a bit confusing,” he said. “It goes down from three lanes to one at one point.”
Vincent said that another car attempted to merge where he was riding.
“I remember looking at that car and trying to figure out how I was going to get around,” he said, “and that’s the last thing I remember.”
Vincent addressed the question of the accident being investigated as a possible DUI.
“Apparently there’s a rumor that somebody is doing a DUI investigation,” he told the Gabber. “Nobody [has] told me that. There were two [FHP] troopers and two St. Pete police in the ER, and neither one of them said anything to me about that. Nobody drew any blood. Nobody asked me to draw any blood.”
Vincent says the rumor may have resulted from the fact that he was seen celebrating the Gulfport Police Department’s win that afternoon in the Guns & Hoses volleyball match before the accident.
After the match on Sunday, Vincent said, “I took my winning team over to Caddy’s [on Shore Boulevard]. I had one drink while I was at Caddy’s. Probably 20 minutes to a half-hour we sat there. And then I walked over to the beach and said goodbye to everybody and then I went home. Or tried to go home.
“I had one drink, yes. That’s no secret. I’m confident that I wasn’t impaired.”
The Gabber also spoke to Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly on Wednesday, November 13. O’Reilly was one of the first people to see Vincent in the hospital on Sunday afternoon, along with Gulfport Commander Mary Farrand.
According to O’Reilly, Vincent was wearing a helmet, “appropriate riding wear and boots” at the time of the accident.
The City Manager confirmed that the city has no concerns at this time or plans for further action regarding the accident, and they will wait for the results of the full investigation by the FHP. He said that Chief Vincent is expected to be back at work as soon as he is cleared for duty by doctors, though there was no estimate on when that would be at press time.
O’Reilly confirmed that Commander Farrand will be the acting police chief until Vincent is cleared for duty. She has been with the Gulfport Police Department since 2001.
About his impending hospital release, Vincent seemed upbeat.
“I’m going to go home and get in my own bed,” he said.