Palm Beach Post
Woman found dead hours after crash
By Sarah Eisenhauer and Lona O'Connor, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 15, 2002
It wasn't in Laura Maness' nature not to call home.
As the mother of five -- ages 6, 14, 17, 21 and 23 -- Maness' life revolved around her rural Loxahatchee home, surrounded by woods and tucked away on a quiet dirt road. That's where she home-schooled her kids and helped her husband of nearly 25 years with his home-based printing business.
That's why her husband, Allen, grew worried when he lost touch with her about 6:30 p.m. as they drove home separately after retrieving their eldest daughter from a Broward County hospital Friday evening on Florida's Turnpike. His worry turned to panic when she still hadn't come home at midnight.
While he was searching frantically for her, she lay in her van in a canal west of Delray Beach for nearly 12 hours, undiscovered while emergency crews cleaned up spilled gasoline from an overturned tanker truck on the turnpike.
Maness was killed when her white van went into the C-15 canal about 4 miles north of Glades Road on the turnpike, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Santangelo. Her van was the fifth vehicle involved in an accident that occurred at 6:43 p.m. Friday, although troopers didn't realize it until near dawn Saturday.
On Saturday, investigators were still trying to figure out how Maness' van was involved in the crash, which began when a Kenan Oil tanker rear-ended a Toyota Corolla and then careened across the road, striking two other vehicles, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel on the highway and snarling traffic for more than 16 hours. The driver of the tanker, Anthony M. White, 31, of Miami, was driving with a suspended driver license, troopers said.
Troopers and firefighters, ordered to stay 200 yards away from the overturned tanker while crews cleaned up the oil spill, returned to the crash scene about 5 a.m. Saturday. It was then that a firefighter noticed an oil slick in the canal near the crash site, Santangelo said. Another firefighter found a tire just south of the turnpike bridge over the canal. A diver went into the water and found the van with Maness' body inside.
"That was our worst fear, a fifth vehicle. The whole mood changed then," Santangelo said. "Until then we felt we had dodged the bullet. The injuries were minor. Then the diver discovered the vehicle and gave us the bad news."
It is not clear when or how Maness' van went into the canal, he said.
That Maness' van wasn't seen was probably caused by factors including the darkness and confusion and the rush to seal off the area after the fuel leak, Santangelo said.
Matthew McCormick, 36, who was driving one of the cars involved in the crash, said he did not see a white van. No one else reported seeing the van, either, Santangelo said.
As Allen Maness, with daughter Christina in his car, passed though Boca Raton, he realized he had just missed a major accident. He immediately tried to call Laura on her cellphone to warn her.
She didn't answer.
"I wanted to tell her to get off to avoid it," he said.
So he drove on home, but Laura's white van never rolled into the driveway after him. Frantic, he called the highway patrol.
He was told not to worry, that no white vans were involved in the tanker crash.
So he waited on his living room couch, watching out the window for his wife to come home.
"I waited and waited. She wasn't answering her phone, and it wasn't like her not to call," he said.
At 3 a.m., he fell asleep on the couch.
Almost three hours later, he awoke. Their children started calling friends to see whether anyone had heard from her. They called FHP and again were told their mother wasn't involved in turnpike crash.
Frenzied, Allen jumped into his car and drove the nearly two hours to the Hollywood Boulevard turnpike exit, searching for any trace.
As he was searching on foot along the highway, he got the call. Laura's body was discovered inside her van, which had crashed into a canal near the scene of the tanker crash the night before.
"I just started running as fast as I could," Maness said. "My legs hurt I ran so fast."
Staff researcher Madeline Miller contributed to this story.
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12-15-2002, 05:28 PM #1
Florida Turnpike--Officials Miss 1 vehicle involved..occupant found dead next day09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
12-16-2002, 02:03 PM #2
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- Sedona, AZ
Similar thing happened in Phoenix
... earlier this year. 3 vehicle accident, the 3rd vehicle veered off into a cement culvert next to the highway (major highway too) and wasn't discovered until the next morning by the news traffic helicopter. All 3 victims were dead. *tsk*
12-17-2002, 09:22 AM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 1999
- Cypress Creek, Houston TX
dang that is a sad story..best wishes to the husband and kids!
Is it just me or are these types of stories closer to the heart during the holidays?
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