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Tampa Bay Times

Manatee County teacher hit by car in downtown St. Petersburg, critically injured

By Emma Uber,

Jeffrey Wilson, shown in this photo posted on the Freedom Elementary School Facebook page, was critically injured when he was hit by a car in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday, police said. [ Freedom Elementary School ]

A Manatee County teacher was critically injured when he was hit by a car while crossing the street with his family in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday night.

Jeffrey Wilson, a 54-year-old physical education teacher at Freedom Elementary School, was walking across the Third Street N crosswalk with his wife, Ariane, and their adult daughter at about 6:30 p.m. when the driver of a Nissan Rouge traveling west on Central Avenue turned the corner and struck him and his wife, St. Petersburg police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said. Police did not release the name of the driver on Tuesday.

Both Jeffrey and Ariane Wilson were taken to the hospital. Neither of their injuries were initially considered life-threatening, Fernandez said.

Ariane, a kindergarten teacher at Freedom Elementary School, received treatment for broken ribs and an injured shoulder. Jeffrey’s condition, however, worsened drastically, according to an update shared Monday on the Freedom Elementary School Facebook group.

“He no longer has brain activity. He is getting no treatment at this time and we are told he is pain-free,” the Facebook post said.

There is also a “do not resuscitate” order, according to the post.

At the news of Jeffrey’s worsening health, families of Freedom Elementary students past and present took to the Facebook group to post about the impact Wilson had on students’ lives.

“Coach has been an amazing role model in this community for so long,” parent Brad Washio wrote. “He’s helped our kids grow as leaders, and now they share his passion for health and fitness. He’s significantly impacted the lives of so many. What an amazing legacy.”

One parent shared how Jeffrey Wilson made her daughter feel at home during her first year at a public school, while another said he worked with their family to help their child with delayed social skills.

“I am heartbroken and don’t know how to relay the news to Chase,” parent Jeanette Pacheco said. “He felt so safe with Coach Wilson and we will be forever grateful.”

Freedom Elementary School Principal Dr. Guy Grimes is asking the school community to write a prayer or note for the Wilson family attached to a small flag. He plans to display the flags in the school’s courtyard and later gift them to the Wilson family. Materials to create the flags can be found by the Freedom Elementary School office doors.

“This is our first way to show our love to them,” the Facebook post said.

A total of 559 pedestrians were killed in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area from 2016 to 2020, according to a 2022 report released by urban development advocacy group Smart Growth America. The report ranked the area as the fourth most dangerous place for pedestrians in the nation.

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