Bobby Bowden (AP file photo)
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden’s grandson was one of two men killed when their car flipped into a small ditch off a central Florida road, officials said Thursday.
Taylor Jeffrey Bowden, 23, and driver Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, 25, both died in the crash, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer confirmed Bowden’s relation to the famous football coach.
He is the second grandson that Bobby Bowden has lost in a car crash. Bowden Madden, 15, and Bobby Bowden’s former son-in-law, John Allen Madden, were killed in September 2004 when their car was hit a by a utility truck that was helping to restore power outages caused by Hurricane Frances.
A third man in Thursday’s crash in Winter Haven — 22-year-old Robert Lewis Edwards — was rescued after spending hours in water up to his neck.
A trash collector reported the submerged car at 7:47 a.m. The Mitsubishi wasn’t very visible from the road, but the Florida Refuse truck was high enough to allow the worker to see it.
At first, Winter Haven police, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics and the sheriff’s office dive team who responded couldn’t find survivors. The front end of the car was completely submerged, while part of the back end was sticking up out of the water.
More than three hours later, dive team members in the water heard noises coming from the car. They were able to communicate with Edwards, who said he was cold and needed help. After several minutes, Edwards was out of the water and he was being treated for hypothermia and other injuries at a hospital.
The dive team then located the bodies of Bowden and De Aguiar Valim.
The details of the crash were being investigated, but alcohol appears to be a factor, the sheriff’s office reported.
Deputies have attempted to talk to Edwards about what happened but said he wasn’t lucid. It appears that the car was heading north on Country Club Road when it cross the southbound lane, crashed through a fence, went down an embankment and came to a rest upside down in the water.
Bobby Bowden led the Seminoles from 1976 to 2009 when he retired. The 84-year-old holds the NCAA record for most career wins and bowl wins by a Division I coach and won two national championships.