Fleeing deputies, drunk man crashes truck, then jumps into ocean, authorities say

After being rescued, he told deputies his chase would make for 'a great story'

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

DUCK KEY, Fla. - A drunken man led Monroe County sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase early Sunday, eventually crashing his pickup truck into the entrance sign for Duck Key and jumping into the ocean, authorities said. 

Deputies on a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat whisked him from the water, but not before the man tried to elude authorities by hiding under a bridge, clinging to a piling, said Adam Linhardt, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Department.

After his rescue, he reportedly told deputies that the morning's events would make for "a great story" to tell his friends and family.

Nicholas Tralka, 31, faces a number of charges, including driving while under the influence, causing property damage and resisting arrest.

Linhardt said a deputy saw a pickup truck leave a bar along the Overseas Highway in Marathon at a high rate of speed just before 4 a.m. Before the deputy could attempt a traffic stop, Tralka slammed into a concrete median and kept going, Linhardt said. Deputies gave chase as Tralka reached speeds of more than 100 mph and swerved erratically across the northbound lanes of the Overseas Highway, Linhardt said.

Deputies deployed tire spikes near mile marker 60.5 to stop the truck, but Tralka kept driving eventually crashing into a light pole and a palm tree and finally rolling into the Duck Key entrance sign, Linhardt said. When the truck finally came to a stop, Tralka bailed out of the vehicle and jumped over a nearby seawall, according to the arrest report. 

Deputies repeatedly called out for Tralka to stop, but he kept swimming toward Toms Harbor Channel Bridge, where he hid from authorities for about 30 minutes, the report said. A fisherman alerted deputies that Tralka was under the bridge, staying afloat by holding onto piling, the report said.

Tralka eventually surrendered and was pulled aboard the FWC boat by Key Colony Beach police officers, the report said.

Nickolas Tralka hid under a bridge after crashing his truck, deputies said.

A search of Tralka's truck found three empty 100 milliliter bottles of Fireball whiskey along with a full one, Linhardt said.

Tralka told deputies that he had been drinking and got scared.

"I f***ed up. I'm sorry," he told deputies, according to the arrest report. Deputies said Tralka would alternate between apologizing and bragging about his high-speed antics, the report said.

Once arrested, Tralka resisted taking a blood alcohol test, saying "I'm already going to jail, so why?" the report said. When deputies tested Tralka's blood alcohol level, it was .214 -- more than double the legal limit of .08.

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