Read related story
NAPLES — A state investigation found six policy violations related to a December 2011 crash that killed a juvenile justice contractor employee and a Bonita Springs teen in eastern Collier County.
A 17-page Department of Juvenile Justice inspector general's report released this week laid blame for the six policy violations on the two top administrators at Big Cypress Wilderness Institute, a juvenile justice facility in Ochopee for male teens, as well as the driver who crashed an SUV into a canal last year.
The driver, Johnson Atilard, 25, and Daniel Huerta, 17, drowned. Seven surviving passengers were hospitalized briefly.
The investigation found administrators allowed Atilard, of Cape Coral, to drive too many teens with not enough seat belts, all while talking on a cellphone.
Atilard's company driving privileges were revoked at the time of the crash, and administrators failed to notice Atilard lied on his job application about his driving record. By the time of the crash, Atilard had accumulated at least 18 traffic citations since 2006.
"The inspector general's investigation was thorough and comprehensive," said Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman C.J. Drake. "We will continue to closely monitor the AMIkids program in Collier County to ensure that the employees there effectively enforce policies and procedures for the benefit of our youth."
The inspector general's report found former Big Cypress executive director Daniel Washington and director of operations Frantz Lindor were each responsible for at least three policy violations. Washington was demoted and later resigned after the crash; Lindor was fired.
"Everything that's written in the IG report is consistent with our own internal investigation and the concerns they raised," said Judy Estren, vice president of support services and corporate council for AMIkids, a Tampa-based nonprofit organization overseeing the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute.
Five of the six policy violations had been reported, either by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Daily News in a mid-March article about the crash.
The lone new violation alleged in the report was that Lindor told at least one juvenile to lie about the number of teens in Atilard's SUV when it crashed. Lindor wanted the teen to lie "because that would have meant there were too many people in the car and Lindor was going to get in trouble," the inspector general's report states.
Investigators couldn't reach Lindor for questioning about the allegation after it surfaced late in the inquiry.
Steve Schwed, the lawyer for Huerta's parents, who filed a lawsuit against the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute alleging negligence, questioned whether there should have been better oversight of Washington and Lindor.
"There were management decisions that led up to this that allowed it to happen," Schwed said. "Obviously, they didn't train their folks properly."
Both Washington and Lindor talked with the inspector general's investigators at least one time. Neither has spoken publicly since the crash, and neither could be reached to comment Friday.
Washington told investigators he allowed Atilard to drive — even though his driving privileges were revoked by a February 2011 memo — because he "did not remember giving Atilard the memo and did not remember Atilard wasn't eligible to drive for the program," the report states.
Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo
Lindor told investigators he never was told Atilard wasn't allowed to drive company vehicles.
The inspector general's report said Lindor reviewed its contents and didn't have any comments about the findings. Washington was provided with the report by the Department of Juvenile Justice but didn't respond to the findings.
The inspector general's report lists recommended changes to AMIkids' program policy, all of which AMIkids officials said have been made. They include requiring staff to report traffic violations they receive and that long-distance trips with juveniles are "carefully considered for the potential of driver fatigue."
"Prior to learning what their investigative report contained, we had either addressed or were in the process of addressing these recommendations," Estren said.
The report likely won't have a significant effect on the lawsuit, which is in its early stages, Schwed said.