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Cape man dies after pickup crashes into pool hall

By Staff | Jul 21, 2015

A Cape Coral husband and father died Monday after a driver crashed into a local pool hall.

Ronald P. Gravel, 60, sustained life-threatening injuries when a Ford F-250 drove through the front windows of Diamond Billiards Sportsbar & Grill, at 1242 S.W. Pine Island Road, at 4:56 p.m. He was trauma-alerted to Lee Memorial Hospital, along with another victim, but later died from his injuries.

As of Tuesday, Tracy Marie Booker, 52, also of the Cape, was listed in serious condition at the hospital.

Two others were taken to the Cape Coral Hospital as a result of the crash. Another pool hall patron, Linda Girard, 58, of the Cape, had minor injuries. She has since been treated and released.

The Cape police reported that the driver of the truck, William Henry Gulliver, 75, of St. James City, sustained no injuries but was transported for observation. He also had been discharged Tuesday.

The truck was parked in the parking lot of Diamond Billiards, facing the building. According to officials, Gulliver entered the truck and after several minutes, drove forward at a high rate of speed. The truck drove through the front windows and the interior and struck the main bar area head on.

At the time, Gravel, Booker and Girard were seated at the bar directly in the truck’s path.

Police reported that the truck struck all three of them, with two being trapped between it and the bar.

The crash is alcohol related, according to officials. Criminal charges are pending.

Ward Huey, the owner of Diamond Billiards, explained on Tuesday that his staff is shocked by the tragedy. Gravel was the kitchen manager at the pool hall and had been employed for about six years.

“He was on the clock. He was sitting up at the bar area,” he said.

According to Huey, Gulliver was asked by the bartender to leave just before the crash. Gulliver was reportedly bothering some female customers, specifically Booker and Girard, by “groping” them.

“Actually, we had him thrown out the night before,” he said. “For the same reason.”

Huey said his bartenders did not know Gulliver, that he was not a “regular.”

“We only served him two beers before we asked him to leave,” he said of Monday.

Huey noted that it was about 60 feet from the point of entrance to where the truck stopped.

“We have a raised deck area. He had to go over a couple curbings,” he said.

“He had to be cracking along pretty good,” Huey added.

He and his staff reportedly saw the police locate empty beer bottles inside the truck.

Huey’s daughter, Dyan Thompson, has helped set up a GoFundMe account for Gravel’s family.

“Ron, of course, was the bread winner,” she said. “His wife doesn’t work, so we’re trying to raise money for funeral expenses and to help her live and get back on her feet.”

A former New Jersey medic, Thompson herself was shocked when she showed up Monday.

“When I ran in and saw the truck on top of the bar, I just screamed,” she said.

“This is family, this isn’t just a bar,” Thompson said. “We care about each other. Ron was family.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, over $4,000 had been donated to the GoFundMe account.

“We can’t believe the support so far we’ve gotten,” she said.

Individuals and businesses alike, including Bubba’s Roadhouse & Saloon and The Dek Bar, have donated funds. The GoFundMe account goal is set at reaching $25,000 to help the family.

“We’ve been doing so many fundraisers for the community,” Thompson said.

“Now we’re in need,” she said. “We need help.”

Huey was unaware of any funeral services planned for Gravel as of Tuesday.

“I talked to his son last night,” he said, adding that his son was preparing to travel to Grenada for medical studies and his daughter is expected to open a beauty salon. “He’s been married a long time.”

Huey explained that Gravel was an all-around good guy and a bit of a goofball.

“He’s just a real good family man, real down to earth,” he said.

“It’s going to be a loss for all of us,” Huey added.

Anyone interested in donating can do so online at: www.gofundme.com/rongravel.

Donations can also be dropped off at Diamond Billiards.

For more information on how to donate, contact Thompson at (239) 218-8597.