Tennis superstar Venus Williams was in tears on Monday during her first press conference since being sued by the estate of 78-year-old Jerome Barson, who died in a car crash that Palm Beach Garden police said she caused.
After beating Elise Mertens in Wimbledon’s first round, reporters repeatedly asked the 37-year-old about the deadly accident, which took place on June 9.
“Completely devastating, speechless. I am just…,” said Williams, before she broke down in tears.
“She can’t say anything more about this, so I would ask you to respect her wishes, please,” said the moderator.
However, Williams wasn’t able to complete the press conference. Williams quickly told the moderator she had to leave.
Police said witnesses told investigators that Williams ran a red light in her 2010 Toyota Sequoia SUV, causing a crash that injured Barson, who died two weeks later.
The report revealed a 2016 Hyundai Accent driven by Barson’s wife, Linda, crashed into the side of Williams’ SUV. Linda Barson told investigators that she was approaching the intersection when her light turned green and that she was unable to stop in time. Linda Barson suffered unspecified moderate injuries. Williams was not hurt.
Williams told investigators she had entered the six-lane intersection on a green light, but had been forced to stop midpoint by traffic ahead of her. She said she did not see the Barsons’ car when she crossed into their lanes.
Palm Beach Gardens Maj. Paul Rogers says the crash remains under investigation. Williams, who has a residence in Palm Beach Gardens, has not been cited or charged. The report added she was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She also wasn’t texting.
Williams’ attorney Malcolm Cunningham said in a statement that Williams expressed “her deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one.”
An attorney representing Barson’s family filed a lawsuit on June 30 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court seeking unspecified damages.
Attorney Michael Steinger accused Williams of running a red light, failing to yield the right-of way, inattentive driving, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He said Barson, a retired teacher who had moved to South Florida from Philadelphia in 1975, had been in good health and preparing to go on a Disney cruise with his wife of 33 years, Linda, three children, and 13 grandchildren.
He said Linda Barson, who suffered several fractures to her right arm and hand in the crash, is “physically and emotionally devastated.”
“This was the love of her life that she spent every day with. They did everything together,” Steinger said.
Williams, the older sister of fellow tennis star Serena Williams, has won seven Grand Slam titles, including five at her favorite tournament, Wimbledon.
She revealed in 2011 that she’d been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease.
Her ranking fell outside the top 100 as she coped with her illness and injuries, and from 2011 to 2014, she only advanced past the third round at a major once.
Early round losses continued to mount for Williams and questions about retirement came up time and again. Those questions are still asked, but she had a career renaissance, and in January reached the finals of the Australian Open, where she lost to her sister.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.