Jury awards $1.7 mil. to crash victim’s family

WINTER HAVEN – Monday, October 10, 2011 | A Polk County jury awarded $1.7 million in damages Friday evening to the family of a prominent Winter Haven community fundraiser who was killed in a 2009 crash.

William Ryan, 64, was killed Sept. 28, 2009. Authorities said he died after a vehicle driven by Kenneth Hayas, of Winter Haven, crossed the center line of Overlook Drive and struck Ryan’s vehicle.

Ryan’s wife, Vickie Ryan, as representative of her husband’s estate, filed suit against Hayas that year, contending he was negligent. During a week-long trial this month, Hayas argued he was not at fault, said Lance Holden, a lawyer for the Ryan family.

Prosecutors who reviewed the case didn’t charge Hayas, according to Holden.

Ryan’s family welcomed the verdict, the lawyer said.

“It was a burden that was lifted from their shoulders and reaffirmed their belief in the jury system,” said Holden.

Ryan was known for raising money for Winter Haven Hospital and the school now known as Polk State College.

Before his death, Ryan spent four years raising money for the hospital’s capital improvement campaigns.

He served as the hospital foundation’s major-gifts director.

Prior to that position, Ryan served as executive director of the college’s foundation and served as its associate vice president of development and planning.

He is credited with helping broaden the hospital foundation’s affiliation with Polk State by expanding its role in providing scholarships in the health field.

“There are very few people who served his community so well,” Holden said.