SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Sarasota Police have completed their investigation into a crash involving a Longboat Key Police vehicle last December that claimed the life of a well-known Sarasota philanthropist and his wife.
Around 6pm on December 18, Longboat Key Police Officer Jeffrey Vogt was driving south on the 2100 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Police say he was responding to a fire alarm call and had his emergency lights activated, but not his siren, as 91-year-old Charles Barancik was exiting a private residence in his Tesla.
Police say construction equipment obscured Barancik’s view, including a backhoe and water trailer in the grass at the edge of the roadway, as well as a horizontal drilling machine a little further north next to the sidewalk with the drill shaft still in the ground. Police found at least two employees and two residents, one of whom was Barancik, had previously complained about the location of the equipment.
Officer Vogt was traveling at 84mph before hitting the brakes and, though he tried to steer away, his SUV hit the Tesla while traveling at 55.4mph.
Barancik was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, 83-year-old Margery Barancik, was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital under a trauma alert with serious injuries. She passed away the following day.
Police say their investigation concluded Barancik was at fault in the crash for violating the right of way of the patrol car.
Charles and his wife established the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation in 2014, a private, family foundation in Sarasota that creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond. The foundation has donated to dozens of local organizations in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research, including Harvest House, Asolo, Forty Carrots, UnidosNow, JFCS, and All Faiths Food Bank.
The couple quietly donated more than $50 million before their life was tragically and abruptly taken in a car crash on Longboat Key days before Christmas.
“Many people, when they lose their loved ones, it’s harder to continue on with their legacy," said Rebecca Barancik, the daughter-in-law of Chuck and Margery. "We’re very lucky that Margie and Chuck left us with the means to continue to do great works.”
The Foundation’s primary focus is on mental health, education and creating new opportunities for families, yet the Baranciks’ were one of the first to support the vision for a new Bayfront, too.
“They gave almost $1 million in capital endowment, to enable us to transform," explained A.G. Lafley, Founding CEO of the Bay Park Conservancy. "To preserve, enhance, restore and ultimately sustain this Mangrove Bayou that’s behind me.”
“We take the mangroves for granted almost. They’re not very showy like all of our beautiful flowering plants and our oak trees that are huge and you can’t avoid them. It just reminded me of Margery and Chuck, the way they very quietly, very humbling worked to make a difference in this community,” said Rebecca Barancik.
Murray Devine, a spokesperson for the Barancik Foundation, says the family was touched by the community’s response. They ask the community to pay homage to the couple by donating to a charity of their choice – it’s what Charles and Margery would want.