Officer Stadanko runs over 2 beachgoers


February 23, 2003, 10:50 PM
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Posted on Sun, Feb. 23, 2003

1 killed as police SUV crushes duo on beach
Accident occurred as officers searched for robbery suspect

ACCIDENT SITE: Red paint used by police mark the sand where this SUV crushed two sisters Saturday on the beach at 13th Street and Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. RICHARD PATTERSON/HERALD STAFF

A two-ton SUV driven by a Miami Beach police officer ran over two sisters sunning themselves on the sands of Miami Beach Saturday afternoon, fatally injuring one of them and leaving the other in critical condition.

The horrific accident was seen by hundreds of beachgoers. Witnesses said the vehicle backed up, rolling over the sisters a second time. Because the sport utility vehicle was still over one of the women, the officer again moved the vehicle, crushing her chest.

Stephanie Tunc, 27, died five hours later at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Her sister, Sandrine Tunc, 26, was in critical but stable condition Saturday night.

''Of all places,'' said beachgoer Monica Ready, 20, of Miami. ``They probably picked a spot right next to the lifeguard station because they thought it was safer, and look what happened.''

The officer, George Varon, who has seven years service in the department, was put on administrative leave as the department began its investigation.

''Officer Varon is quite distraught,'' said Miami Beach police Capt. George Navarro.

The sisters, French citizens, were visiting from England.

The accident took place just before 1 p.m.


Varon, 36, the only officer operating a four-wheel drive vehicle in the city, was dispatched from the North District to help in the search for two robbers.

As many as a dozen police cars trailed the SUV, witnesses said.

Navarro said a lifeguard spotted a man he believed to be one of the subjects. He said Varon went looking for the man but ``was not in pursuit.''

Police policy allows emergency vehicles to pursue subjects on the sand.


According to Navarro, just after 12:30 p.m. a man called police to say he had been robbed by two men while rollerblading at 18th Street and Washington Avenue.

At 12:54 p.m., one of the robbers was sighted near the 14th Street lifeguard stand.

''At 12:55 p.m., the accident occurred,'' Navarro said.

Varon drove lengthwise over the women, who were lying on their backs. He then backed up the vehicle. ''But one girl was still under, so he had to drive forward again,'' said Michelle Panting, 19, of Miami, who witnessed the accident.

Police quickly cordoned off the area.

Although Navarro said he knew few details of the accident, he was quick to support his colleague. ''There is no way he could have been going at a high rate of speed,'' Navarro said.

The officer wasn't using a siren, and witnesses said the women didn't see the police vehicle coming. The robbers -- and their unidentified loot -- got away.

Officials from the police department and city were visibly shaken during a hastily called news conference at Washington Avenue headquarters.

Police Chief Don DeLucca, in Philadelphia for a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, left abruptly to catch a flight to Miami.


''Our hearts go out to the families of the two [women],'' said Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer, flanked by City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, Navarro and Miami Beach Commissioner Jose Smith.

As he spoke, Dermer received a tap on his shoulder from a staff member.

''We just did get the unfortunate news that one of the victims passed away,'' he said.

Navarro called Varon an exemplary officer who has been with the department for seven years.

In 1998, Varon started a mentorship program to help teenagers deal with peer pressure and treated them to football games and rides in a patrol car.


Miami Beach police policy calls for Varon to take administrative leave for 72 hours while police conduct a critical-incident briefing.

Other members of the Miami Beach Police Department also were shaken by the day's events.

Still in uniform, several officers milled outside Jackson's Ryder Trauma Center into the night, keeping vigil and waiting for news on Sandrine Tunc.

''We want her to know she's not alone,'' one of them said.

I would say that Stadank had a rectal cranial inversion going on. Very sad.

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February 23, 2003, 11:06 PM
Idiotic! :cuss:

February 23, 2003, 11:12 PM
The sisters, French citizens, were visiting from England. reminds me of the George thorogood (sp) song with the lyrics: I met a German girl in England who was going to school in France, we danced the Mississippi at an Alpha Capa dance, It wasnt me, no no no it wasnt me......

What the heck is the Mississippi?:confused:

February 23, 2003, 11:19 PM
At least they were French.

February 24, 2003, 12:05 AM
Cute, BamBam, cute.

February 24, 2003, 12:14 AM
I'm not in a position to judge anyone, but just after noon, I don't understand how an experienced, non-intoxicated officer could run over someone on a beach! I mean, I am assuming that they didn't lay down after he came to a stop.

I'm sure he feels bad, but then again, he should. A careless, negligent act! :cuss:

February 24, 2003, 01:36 PM
He must of been looking everywhere but where he was going. Time for him to find another line of work, orat least, stay behind a desk. Bummer.:uhoh: :uhoh: :uhoh:

Matt G
February 24, 2003, 02:41 PM
Not even close to on-topic.


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