Coach, driver of team van in fatal Barber Bridge crash announces retirement

VERO BEACH — A women’s rowing team coach and driver of a team van who police said failed to yield in a fatal Jan. 15 two-vehicle crash – which seriously injured several others – announced his retirement from College of the Holy Cross.

Friday morning, the college announced the retirement of Patrick Diggins, the director of rowing and head women’s rowing coach. Diggins, 55, of Massachusetts, was employed for 34 years at the college, located in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“I thank Patrick for his years of dedication and service to the college,” Director of Athletics Marcus Blossom said in a statement. “I wish him luck as he steps into this new chapter.”

No charges have been filed in the crash that happened at the Merrill P. Barber Bridge. Vero Beach police said Diggins was driving a van carrying several rowing team members on southbound Indian River Boulevard.

Diggins made a left turn to get to the bridge, driving into the path of an oncoming red Dodge pickup, police said. The northbound pickup, driven by 55-year-old Ronald Edward Wolf, of Fort Pierce, slammed into the front passenger side of the van.

The impact killed rowing team member Grace Rett, 20, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, police said. Eight others were seriously hurt, including other teammates, Diggins and Wolf.

All patients were released from the hospital by late January. A police report showed Diggins failed to yield the right of way in the wreck.

Several witnesses told police lights on both sides of the street were green. But, they said there was no green arrow for Diggins to make a left turn.

It was unclear how fast each vehicle was traveling on Indian River Boulevard, which has a posted speed limit of 45 mph.

Police installed a traffic control sign on the road reminding motorists of their speed. Crews were expected to replace traffic signals at the intersection on Sunday.

Several tributes were made to pay respect to Rett and the others injured in the crash. On social media, many people left supporting comments under the college’s post of Diggins’ retirement announcement.

“What an incredible man, coach, and Crusader,” one commenter said of the award-winning coach. “He was instrumental in bringing Holy Cross Women’s Rowing to the elite level while still keeping its heart. Patrick will be greatly missed.”

In the meantime, interim head coach Jim Barr will oversee the women’s rowing season – set to begin April 4. College officials will conduct a national search for a full time women’s rowing coach at the end of the 2020 season, officials said.

The investigation into the deadly crash remains ongoing.





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