SPRING BREAK TRAGEDY

Three-car wreck leaves teen dead

Six other people were taken to area hospitals for injuries suffered in the collisions on U.S. Highway 90.


By ISAAC SABETAI Daily News Staff Writer
DORCAS ó A teenager died in a traffic crash east of Crestview Monday after the small car she was riding in was hit first by a dump truck and then a pickup.

Three others traveling in the car with her were badly injured. Ginger Langford, a 17-yearold Crestview resident, was pronounced dead on the scene of the accident.

Jason Miles, 18, also of Crestview and the driver of the 1995 Geo involved in the wreck, was listed in critical condition.

Michael Brown, 15, and Josh Gander, 17, both of Crestview, were listed in serious condition. Gander and Brown are both sophomores at Crestview High School. Okaloosa County students are currently on spring break.

No information concerning the educational status of the other accident victims could be determined by press time.

The collisions, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and Mount Olive Road, left the Geo so mangled that it took about 40 minutes and three sets of the Jaws of Life to extricate those who survived the accident.

"There might be more than one fatality before this is all done with," Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dallas Bass said at the scene. "Weíre lucky itís not worse than it is."

No one in the Geo was wearing a seat belt, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release.

The injured were taken to North Okaloosa Medical Center, Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs and Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.

Authorities wanted to transport some of those hurt by helicopter to larger hospitals with trauma units, but heavy rains grounded the helicopters.

The drivers of the trucks involved in the collisions were not seriously injured.

Pieces of the burgundy Geo were scattered throughout the road. The carís front was only distinguishable from its rear by the location of its muffler.

"It was a pretty good mess," said Dennis Folkerts, Chief 43 of the Dorcas Volunteer Fire District.

At about 2 p.m. the Geo "failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection" and turned eastbound onto U.S. 90 from Mount Olive, according to the FHP report.

Miles, the driver, apparently did not see a yellow Florida Department of Transportation dump truck also traveling east on U.S. 90.

The dump truck struck the Geo on the passenger side. The Geo then crossed the centerline of the two-lane road and was struck head-on by a Florida Department of Transportation pickup truck, which was carrying two people.

The speed limit on that part of U.S. 90 is 55 mph.

Every person in each of the three vehicles was taken to a hospital.

When Gloria Folkerts, a firefighter with the Dorcas Volunteer Fire District, arrived at the scene, the dump truckís driver, 54-year-old Leroy Caldwell of Argyle, was lying on the ground. She said it was mental anguish, rather than physical injuries, that brought the driver down.

"He was hurt, but he was more traumatized," she said.

Both Caldwell and Harold Phelps, 58, of Crestview, the driver of the pickup involved in the wreck, were listed as being in stable condition.

Joseph Washington, a 59-yearold resident of DeFuniak Springs who was riding with Phelps, was also listed in stable condition.

Traffic on the road was reduced to one lane, and for a while was diverted to the dirt shoulder. Inmates from the Okaloosa Correctional Institution were called from another work site to help with traffic control.

Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin contributed to this report.