Just outside of Tampa I witnessed – meaning happened right in front of me – a major accident. The local news stories present it this way:
MANGO – A mother and her baby were killed in a fiery multi-car crash on Interstate 4 Thursday night.
Just after 8 p.m., Sandray Green’s small car crossed the median from the eastbound lanes into the westbound lanes of the interstate near Thonotosassa Road. The vehicle hit a pickup truck head-on, then went airborne before striking at least two more cars.
“When I seen the car coming across, it spun around right there into that spot, and within a few minutes, it was in flames,” Jimmy Simpson recalled.
According to the Highway Patrol, witnesses told them that Green, 38, was unresponsive in the moments before her car caught fire, but other witnesses told Action News that she was crying out for help.
“Looked like the driver, the lady, was actually still alive. But we couldn’t get to her. All of the sudden it burst into flames. No one could get to her,” Art Luther said
“She was just yelling and screaming for help and nobody could do it. They all tried to do the best they could do; nobody could get to them,” Martin Simon added.
Green and her 1-year-old son died in the fiery crash, which left debris strewn across the highway and Green’s vehicle completely unrecognizable.
Two people from California were in one of the other cars involved, and a woman from Michigan was in a third. All three were injured badly enough to require hospitalization.
I-4 was shut down for several hours as a result of the accident. Two men who tried to sneak around the detour were arrested for drug possession after being pulled over.
The accident, which happened shortly before 7:50 p.m. near Thonotosassa Road, forced traffic to be diverted through Plant City, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Identities of the victims and any other information were not available Thursday night. Troopers were investigating.
A mother and one-year-old child are dead after a horrible accident on Interstate 4.
The fiery accident happened just before 8:00 pm, near Plant City. The road was shut down for several hours, and was re-opened just before 1:00 am.
Authorities say a vehicle crossed the median into on-coming traffic. The car was hit, overturned and caught on fire.
A 38-year-old woman from the UK died. Her one-year-old passenger also died in the crash. Six other people in three other cars were involved in the accident, but survived.
The lady was later named as Sandra Yvette Green. Her 1 year child, Darius Edward Green was also killed.
Here is perspective from one of the victums and a discussion about guard-rails to prevent future accidents…
PLANT CITY – Tracy Palmer remembers looking up to see “a little car” careening toward her across the median.
She vividly recalls the silver ring on her outstretched hand, bracing for the impact.
“The things that go through your mind are incredible,” Palmer said of surviving a May 19 smashup on Interstate 4 near State Road 39.
The collision killed a young Plant City area mother and her 1-year-old son, the occupants of the “little car,” a 2002 Nissan.
As Palmer, 40, lay on the road, her ankle shattered, her lip impaled on her teeth, she was aware of tires rolling inches from her head: motorists so eager to be on their way, they weavedthrough the victims of the four-car wreck.
“People were actually driving between us. I was terrified,” she said. “And that little car was burning the whole time.”
As the news helicopters and medevacs circled above, Palmer wondered how the motorists could show so little respect for an accident scene.
Mostly, though, she wondered why there were no guardrails in the median.
That’s all it would have taken, she said. A slender metal barrier that could have meant the difference between dining in Clermont – her destination – and lying in the middle of I-4 with a compound fracture.
There used to be guardrails along this stretch of I-4, the main link through Central Florida between the east and west coasts.
That was back when the treacherous four-lane highway was known as “the slab” – a reference to its reputation as a road to the morgue for too many who traveled it.
The guardrails disappeared when I-4 was widened to six lanes in the late 1990s.
Conventional wisdom – and federal guidelines – suggested they were not needed where the median is at least 64 feet wide.
The green ribbon of grass dividing I-4 between Interstate 75 and the Polk County line was expanded to as wide as 88 feet – more than adequate for a driver to correct a vehicle after losingcontrol, according to national standards.
“As opposed to spending money that we weren’t sure was in the best interest of the public, we followed federal guidelines,” said Dwayne Kile, district design engineer for the FloridaDepartment of Transportation.
The vast median, however, did not prevent cars from crossing over into opposing traffic. People were dying in head-on collisions, not only on I-4, but throughout the state.
The state transportation agency commissioned a study that showed more than 80 percent of median crossover accidents happen within a mile of an interchange.
Guardrails, it concluded, could make a difference, especially where drivers are jockeying for position before and after interstate exits.
“We believe most of the issue is that you have that merging and weaving of traffic,” Kile said. Add to that a ringing cell phone, blaring stereo, bickering children and other distractions.
“All of that together doesn’t necessarily make for a good recipe,” he said.
Rails To Return
The state plans to install 22 miles of guardrail, at a cost of $7 million, along I-4 from 50th Street in Tampa to the Polk County line.
“The exits near Plant City are so close together, we’re just putting them the entire length,” DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said.
The DOT will ask for bids on the project in December. Construction generally begins three to five months after the bidding process is over, she said.
Work crews are already in the process of installing 15 miles of guardrail in the median of the Veterans Expressway, part of a statewide initiative that is expected to cost more than $50million.
The barriers are not a cure-all, Kile said.
“It helps eliminate our most severe accident – head-on collisions at high rates of speed,” he said.
The driver who loses control of a vehicle still will collide with the guardrail. That vehicle even might bounce back into the roadway, hitting other cars.
But the effect should not be as severe as crossing over the median into oncoming traffic, such as the Nissan that slammed into the Dodge truck Palmer was riding in.
It collided with two more vehicles before it flipped and caught fire. The final toll: two dead, four hospitalized.
The Florida Highway Patrol still is investigating the cause of the crash, which killed driver Sandra Green and her infant son, Daruis Tubor.
Palmer, a visitor to the area who returned last week to her ranch in Alpine, Calif., expects the accident will leave her with a permanent limp.
It could have been worse, she said. “I’m so grateful it wasn’t my wrist because I’m a graphic designer.”
She’s also grateful for the nameless good Samaritans – an off-duty paramedic and a passing physician – who braved the relentless wave of traffic that flowed through the accident scene tostabilize her and take her out of harm’s way before emergency rescue units arrived.
“Those people’s faces you remember glimpsing, you’ll remember them for a lifetime,” Palmer said. “These people didn’t have to endanger their lives, too. But they did.”
Reporter Jan Hollingsworth can be reached at (813) 865-4436.
–> More to come in a future post…