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Dolphin statue erected as memorial to Cole Coppola missing from Riverside Park

Family hopeful for return of statue that once stood at fishing pier in memory of teen killed by drunken driver in 2014
Posted at 5:45 PM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 17:45:21-05

VERO BEACH, Fla. — An Indian River County family is asking for help after a memorial dedicated to their loved one has disappeared.

It was a statue of a dolphin placed inside Riverside Park in Vero Beach – a tribute to Cole Coppola.

"Cole was really the type of kid (who) did things because it was the right thing to do, not because someone told him to do it," Elaine Coppola said Monday, remembering her late son.

Elaine Coppola and her daughters remember Cole Coppola
Elaine Coppola and her daughters remember Cole Coppola, who was killed in 2014, speaking to WPTV from the fishing pier named in his memory.

His older sister, Melanie, said they were so close that she can't remember doing anything without him.

"Always the guy who stuck up for the underdog and he made everybody feel like a somebody," Melanie Coppola recalled.

In 2014, Cole Coppola, then 16, was struck by a drunken driver while he was riding his bicycle on the 17th Street Bridge. The impact sent Cole into the Indian River Lagoon.

The family created the Live Like Cole Foundation and, with the community's help, built the Cole Coppola Memorial Fishing Pier in 2018 at Riverside Park.

Cole Coppola Memorial Fishing Pier sign at Riverside Park
This sign now stands at Riverside Park. The Cole Coppola Memorial Fishing Pier was built in memory of the teenager who was killed by a drunken driver.

Two years later, they added a dolphin statue – a statue that vanished two weeks ago.

"Broke my heart, because I didn't want to think that people would do something like that to something that had so much meaning," Elaine Coppola said.

All that was left was the broken base.

Melanie Coppola explained why the dolphin statue was chosen.

"The day after Cole was killed, a bunch of his friends went to the spot on the 17th Street Bridge and threw carnations into the water, and they were just like praying for a sign, praying for a sign," Melanie Coppola said. "All of a sudden, all these dolphins come up and start playing with carnations."

Cole Coppola, killed by drunken driver while riding bicycle on 17th Street Bridge in 2014
Cole Coppola was killed by a drunken driver while riding his bicycle on the 17th Street Bridge in 2014.

Jamie Williams, the Brevard County woman who hit Cole, was sentenced to seven years and was just released from prison this month, adding another emotional layer for the Coppola family.

"My girls and I are serving a life sentence and, you know, I don't think people understand that part of it," Elaine Coppola said.

The Coppolas said they hope to get a replacement statue, but they'd be more than happy to repair the old one. Anyone with information is asked to call Vero Beach police.