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Police officer runs over sunbathers; one killed

Two French sisters on the beach sunbathing didn't notice the Miami Beach police officer who was searching for robbery suspects in his marked car.

©Associated Press
February 23, 2003


MIAMI BEACH -- A police officer searching for two robbery suspects on the beach drove over two French sisters Saturday, killing one and critically injuring the other.

Miami Beach police officer George Varon was driving a marked Ford Explorer along the crowded shores around 1 p.m. -- following a dispatcher's instructions that the robbery suspects were on the beach -- and apparently didn't see the sunbathers.

Stephanie and Sandrine Tunc were taken to nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital, where 27-year-old Stephanie died. Sandrine, 26, was listed in critical condition Saturday evening. Police said the sisters, who lived in Britain, were on vacation.

"What still isn't clear is how he ended up running over the two victims," said Bobby Hernandez, Miami Beach police spokesman. "They were laying down, and the truck ran them over."

The officer wasn't using a siren, and witnesses said the women didn't see the truck coming.

"He was just out there looking for the suspects," Hernandez said. "That might have been what attributed to running them over -- he was actually occupied looking for the subjects."

Varon, a seven-year veteran, was placed on administrative leave following the accident, Hernandez said.

Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said speed did not appear to be a factor in the death.

"From all the preliminary things that I've seen, there's no way he could have been going at any high rate of speed," he said.

But several witnesses said the officer's actions were reckless.

"The cop was just running around like a crazy man," witness Stacy Kandell told WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. "I don't know what he was doing to run over two girls."

A decade ago, another European sunbather was killed by a police car on a Florida beach. Christa Lina Emilie, 67, of Berlin, was laying on the sand when she was accidentally hit and killed by a police car in New Smyrna Beach on March 29, 1993.

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