Today was Uncle Ed’s memorial service. Aunt Kay was interviewed by Fox 13. A story ran in the St. Pete times, as well. Video from the interview is included.
Watch Aunt Kay’s Interview on Fox 13.
Victim of I-75 inferno mourned
By Abbie Vansickle
Published November 21, 2006
Kay Smyth watched the news of a fiery tanker crash on television Wednesday and immediately called her husband.
“Honey, there’s a really bad accident in Gibsonton, so go another way,” she told his voice mail.
Smyth knew that her husband, Ed Smyth Jr., a 55-year-old long-distance trucker, always took Interstate 75 home after leaving his rig in Okahumpka, in Lake County.
The next morning, Florida Highway Patrol troopers came to her family’s Bradenton home. Near the melted metal at the crash site, troopers had found a bumper and license plate flung from the Hyundai that hit the tanker. The car and the tanker, brimming with nearly 9,000 gallons of fuel, burned for more than 4 hours.
Ed Smyth, the car’s driver, did not survive.
A retired emergency room nurse, Mrs. Smyth, 50, knew the pain of giving bad news. Now, she was receiving it. She asked for straight answers, no sugarcoating.
“I think that from my experience I probably had a lot of questions I was able to get answered then,” she said. “It just kind of helped. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband dearly. I know our lives will continue and we will be fine, but it’s going to be hard.”
Her husband never stood a chance in the accident, troopers said. Just north of Gibsonton, Smyth braked suddenly for a tractor pulling a mower. The tractor drove about 30 mph under the minimum limit, troopers said. Smyth avoided the tractor, but a pickup truck behind him didn’t stop in time, rear-ending Smyth.
His car veered to the right, ramming into a semitrailer truck. The semi driver got out moments before both vehicles exploded. Troopers found Smyth’s remains inside the car.
No one faces charges in the case, and the investigation continues, according to the highway patrol.
“I blame the guy mowing,” Mrs. Smyth said. “I mean, that guy caused it all. He needs to be held responsible for it. I think he should be brought up on criminal charges.”
The mower driver, Franklin Scott Williamson, 28, head of Titan Lawn Services, is a subcontractor for the state Department of Transportation. His contract agreement requires that he finish mowing by 4 p.m., officials said. The crash occurred about 9 p.m.
On Thursday, he declined to comment. He did not return a phone message Monday.
Mrs. Smyth also faults the pickup driver, Dennis Aaron, an 18-year-old Apollo Beach golf course maintenance worker and dirt bike racer. She wonders why he couldn’t stop in time to avoid hitting her husband’s car. But she doesn’t think he should be criminally charged.
“I will personally hold him responsible,” she said.
Last week, Aaron told a reporter he slammed on his brakes as soon as he saw Smyth’s lights, but he couldn’t stop in time. Highway Patrol spokesman Trooper Larry Coggins said Aaron did not tailgate and drove the speed limit.
Met at Thanksgiving
Mrs. Smyth said she never believed in love at first sight until she sat down next to Ed Smyth at a Thanksgiving dinner 29 years ago.
“The day I laid eyes on him, I thought, ‘I’m going to marry that man,’ ” she said. “I didn’t even know his name.”
By Christmas, the two were engaged.
She remembered her husband as a man who loved to laugh – a devoted father who spent his spare time hunting, riding his mountain bike or watching his 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly, play tennis.
He worked in air cargo for Delta Airlines until the airlines cut jobs after Sept. 11, 2001, she said.
He took a job with a trucking company. It was a perfect match.
He traveled the country, hauling orange juice, china and vegetables. He called his wife often, describing blizzards, mountains and foliage foreign to Florida.
“He would call me from all around the United States to tell me how beautiful it was,” she said.
She comforts herself in her belief that each life has a purpose. Still, she wishes her husband’s story ended differently.
“God has a will for all of our lives, and I guess it was time for Ed to go to heaven,” she said. “Part of me still kind of feels that if that guy was not mowing at 9 o’clock at night, it may not have happened. God may have spared my husband.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Smyth is survived by his parents, Ed Smyth Sr. and Ruth Smyth of Sebring, and his four siblings: Brenda Smyth Ross of Bradenton; David Smyth of Venice; and Linda Holland and James Smyth, both of Sebring.
At 1 p.m. today, family and friends will remember Smyth at a memorial service at the Ellenton Colony Baptist Church. The church has set up an educational fund for Kimberly. Contributions may be sent to Colony Baptist, 2920 U.S. 301 N, Ellenton, FL, 34222.
Researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or [email protected]
Widow of accident victim calls for justice
Last Edited: Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006, 6:30 PM EST
Created: Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006, 6:21 PM EST
BRADENTON – Kay Smyth’s professional career was spent as an emergency room nurse, but nothing she saw there has prepared her for the incredibly painful task of burying her husband.
Ed Smyth died when his car went under a gasoline tanker on Interstate 75 last week, and the tanker exploded in a huge ball of fire.
“My dad called me and I said, ‘Ed’s dead, isn’t he,’ and he said ‘Yes,'” recalled Kay.
Smyth says she learned of the accident watching the evening news Wednesday night.
Her husband drove a truck long distance, but that night, she knew he was driving home from north Florida in his car.
“I called his cell phone to say ‘You know honey, coming home, there’s a bad accident on 75. You may want to move around it.’ And I got his voicemail,” Kay recalled.
She thought nothing of it, and with the fire still burning, she went to bed.
“I woke up at 3 o’clock and he wasn’t home and called his cell and just kept getting voicemail,” she said.
In the morning, she’d learned that her husband died in the crash she saw on the news the night before.
The crash is still under investigation, but authorities say it appears Smyth was driving in the fast lane when he came up on a slow-moving mowing tractor in his lane. He swerved to get out of the way, and a pickup behind him swerved too. It appears the pickup hit the corner of Smyth’s car and pushed him into the tanker.
The tractor driver, a subcontractor who mows the median for the state, says he was mowing. If he was, it could be a violation of state law.
“How did that happen? How did this person get by with this? Our daughter doesn’t have a father. I don’t have a husband. That’s hard for me to handle,” stated Kay.
She wants the tractor operator to pay for killing her husband.
“I’d like him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law — the full extent,” she said.
Kay also blames authorities for not knowing about the man mowing so late at night, and the pickup truck driver whom she believes was driving too close behind her husband.
Authorities say criminal charges are possible.
Now, this retired nurse — trained to deal with trauma — is trying to cope the best she can.
“We will go on, and I will do my best to raise my daughter as a single parent,” she said.