ST. PETERSBURG -- A day before Thanksgiving 1993, Olympic diving champ Bruce Kimball went free after serving less than a third of his sentence for killing two Hillsborough County teenagers while driving drunk.

Now, shortly before Christmas 2004, Kimball has learned he is eligible for an Illinois drivers license even though a Florida judge said he should never drive again.


Reversing an earlier decision, the Illinois secretary of state has "determined it would be safe [for Kimball] to operate a vehicle on a public highway" if he passes written and driving tests, spokeswoman Beth Kaufman said this week.

Kimball, 41, was notified of the ruling last week, but it is unknown if he is driving again after a 15-year hiatus. Illinois driver records are private, and Kimball, now a teacher in suburban Chicago, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Larry Davis, did not return a phone call.


However, the Hillsborough prosecutor in the case said he was not surprised by the decision.

Kimball "made a horrible mistake, he pled guilty, he took his sentence like a man and served every day the law required," John Skye, now with the public defender's office, said Tuesday.

"Apparently he has since rehabilitated himself and demonstrated to authorities that he can now be trusted to drive an automobile. I'm not shocked."

A return to the road would add another dramatic chapter to a star-crossed life.

In the early 1980s, Kimball's diving career nearly ended when he was a passenger in a car hit by a drunken driver. Despite serious injuries, he was the "Comeback Kid" of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as he won a silver medal in platform diving.

Yet he began a downward slide into drug and alcohol abuse that continued even as he trained at a Brandon swim club for the 1988 games. After drinking 12 beers in two hours, Kimball was going as fast as 90 mph on Aug. 1, 1988, when he plowed into a group of teenagers on a dark country road in eastern Hillsborough.

Robbie Bedell, 19, and Kevin Gossic, 16, died instantly. Three others were seriously injured.

In 1989, the late Judge Harry Lee Coe sentenced Kimball to 17 years in prison and permanently revoked his driving privileges. With time off for good behavior, he was released in 1993 after serving less than five years.


Penalties for DUI have increased so dramatically since then that a person sentenced today on the same counts would serve at least 22 years.

After his release, Kimball moved to Chicago, completed his bachelor's degree and began teaching at a top high school. He is married and the father of two children.

It is possible, though, that Kimball could run afoul of Florida law if stopped in this state while driving on an Illinois license. Both Florida and Illinois belong to an interstate compact in which member states share information on problem drivers.

"Florida could still consider him revoked -- that will be up to Florida to decide," said Brenda Cronk, an attorney for the Illinois secretary of state. "Basically he is licensed to drive in the state of Illinois -- if he gets stopped somewhere else and they run him, the Illinois license will be valid but it will still show up as revoked in Florida."