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Driver reaching for cellphone hits, kills 2 horses and injures 2 people, police say

By Linda Trischitta • Jul 10, 2018 at 9:00 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A driver dropped his cellphone and was bending over to pick it up when his truck hit a girl and woman who were riding horses, Davie police said Monday. After the crash, a pink riding helmet and two dead horses lay on the rural road.

The collision happened Sunday afternoon on Griffin Road in Southwest Ranches.

Instructor Joy Shupnick, 62, of North Miami, was leading a 9-year-old girl and her father, Miguel Manrique, along the south side of Griffin Road. Their three horses were crossing to the north side of Griffin Road when a 2008 Toyota Tundra hit them, police said.

Shupnick and the child were ejected off their horses, police said.

The driver of the pickup, James Frederick Rink, 24, of Coral Springs, told investigators he was picking up his cellphone when the crash happened about 4 p.m., Davie Police Sgt. Mark Leone said Monday.

The girl, whose name was not released by police, was flown to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Her father was not injured.

Davie Fire Rescue paramedics drove Shupnick to the same hospital, where she was in serious condition Monday, a spokeswoman said. The child’s condition was not released.

The girl wore a helmet, which “may have saved her life,” Leone said.

Police are investigating whether speed was a factor in the crash, Leone said.

Rink has not been charged in the crash and was not injured. Efforts to reach him or a lawyer to speak on his behalf were not successful.

Between September 2013 and February 2018, Rink has had eight cases of traffic infractions, two of which were dismissed, according to Broward County court records.

This year, Rink pleaded no contest when Margate police cited him for speeding 56 mph in a 35 mph zone on Feb. 9 and for speeding 53 mph in a 30 mph zone on Feb. 6. Adjudication was withheld on those cases and he paid court costs of $275 and $220.

Rink was twice found guilty of not wearing a seat belt. He also was found guilty for driving too fast for conditions and having a license that was suspended without his knowledge when he crashed into a pole off the Sawgrass Expressway in 2015. He also was found guilty for having an expired tag and improper tail lights.

Shupnick, the riding instructor, suffered a concussion, a gash to her left foot and has broken rib and back bones in the crash, her husband, Curtis Finn, said Monday.

“She’s been a rider since she was 12 years old,” Finn said. “She’s very experienced.”

Finn said his wife is a volunteer instructor with American Horse Trails, a riding school in Southwest Ranches. Calls to the school were not returned, and police said it was closed Monday.

Finn said he thought Shupnick was riding a chestnut horse called Dinero before the crash.

“They were out on a trail where they take them on a ride down the other side of Griffin Road, along a canal,” Finn said. “She only works there part time. It’s her passion.”

Shupnick works in sales and marketing for a technology company, he said.

“She was awake when they brought her in,” Finn said. “I think she knows what happened, and it will be devastating to her.”

Southwest Ranches is an equestrian community where horses and riders are a common sight, as are signs warning motorists of their presence.

Mayor Doug McKay said of the police accusation that Rink was distracted by a cellphone, “Wow, that’s huge.”

He expects the crash to be a big topic at the town council’s meeting Thursday night.

“Maybe we need some more crossings, literally with a light,” McKay said. Riders generally cross Griffin Road where there are breaks in the guardrail, he said.

“That accident was so unnecessary,” McKay said. “It’s beyond belief.”

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©2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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