WTA (Women's Tennis Association)

Venus Williams won’t face charges in fatal car crash as police say no one is to blame

Family of Jerome Barson, who died in collision with tennis star’s car, say investigator’s conclusions are wrong and plan to continue lawsuit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:35pm

No charges will be filed against tennis star Venus Williams or the other driver for a crash in June that fatally injured the other driver’s husband, police said.

The Palm Beach Gardens police report said an unidentified third vehicle illegally cut off Williams as she tried to cross a busy six-lane highway near her home, setting off a chain of events that ended with a car driven by Linda Barson, 68, slamming into the passenger side of Williams’ car.

Barson’s 78-year-old husband, Jerome, died 13 days after the June 9 crash and she suffered a broken arm and other injuries. Williams, 38, was not hurt.

Jerome Barson’s estate had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Williams, seeking unspecified damages.

Officer David Dowling, the lead investigator, said in his report that video from a nearby security camera shows Williams legally entered the intersection from a road exiting her gated neighbourhood on a green light.

As she started to cross, a dark car cut her off, forcing her to stop. When the car cleared her path, Williams began moving forward in her car but that put her in the path of the Barsons, who now had the green light. The Barsons’ car hit Williams’ car at 65 kilometres per hour.

Dowling said in his report that state law required Williams to exit the intersection and that even though Linda Barson had the green light she was obliged to make sure the intersection was clear.

The Barson family’s lawyer, Michael Steinger, said Dowling’s conclusions are wrong and the suit will be pursued.

“Ms. Williams clearly violated our client’s right of way because our client had a green light, as indicated in each and every police report issued in this case to date,” Steinger said in a statement.

“The report is further inaccurate because the video surveillance does not indicate the colour of Ms. Williams’ light and therefore does not support the police department’s conclusion.”

Williams’ lawyer, Malcolm Cunningham, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Williams, the older sister of tennis star Serena Williams, has won seven grand slam titles, including five at her favourite tournament, Wimbledon.

Weeks after the crash, Williams competed at Wimbledon, losing in the final on July 15 to Garbine Muguruza. Williams broke down in tears when asked at a tournament press conference about the crash and Jerome Barson’s death.