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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Student hospitalized after scooter accident

A UF student is in critical condition after his scooter was hit by a car Tuesday across the street from The Swamp Restaurant.

Michael VanWagner, 22, suffered serious head injuries after a 1993 green Lincoln Town Car hit him from behind near Northwest 17th Street and West University Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. in an accident that also involved two other vehicles.

The Town Car, traveling east on University Avenue, first hit the right side of a Gainesville Regional Utilities truck that was stopped at a traffic light, Gainesville Police spokeswoman Summer Hallett said.

The car traveled up onto the sidewalk before hitting VanWagner's Yamaha scooter, which was in the right lane, Hallett said. Both VanWagner and the scooter were thrown into the crosswalk.

The Town Car kept going, hitting the back of a 2001 red Dodge Ram truck, belonging to Margaret Bridges, 53, Hallett said. The impact spun the truck onto the east corner of the sidewalk.

The Town Car finally stopped at Northwest 15th Street when the car would no longer work, Hallett said. The bumper was torn, the hood was smashed upward, and there was a hole in the top right corner of the windshield.

VanWagner, a UF history junior, lay in the street, his face covered in blood. He was not wearing a helmet.

He was rushed to Shands at UF, where he remained in critical condition Tuesday night, Hallett said.

Mindy McAdams, a UF journalism professor and board member of the Alligator who was standing about 15 feet away, said she did not see what was happening until VanWagner was already on the ground.

McAdams said she stood in shock and her heart beat quickly because the scene looked so terrible.

"A lot of students ran to his side," she said. "Everybody called 911."

The driver of the Town Car, Monica Toliver, 40, was not arrested, but she could be charged with multiple offenses including leaving the scene of an accident with a bodily injury, Hallett said.

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If VanWagner dies from his injuries, Hallett said the charge could be upgraded to leaving the scene of an accident with a death. There could also be a manslaughter charge, she said.

Blood was taken from Toliver to test for any traces of drugs or alcohol, Hallett said, but results may not come back until June.

"Toliver showed no obvious signs of impairment on the scene, so we did not perform a DUI test," Hallett said.

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