1. #1
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    Default I-4 Becomes Deadly

    Boy killed, 3 hurt in I-4 accident

    By Gary Taylor | Sentinel Staff Writer
    Posted June 26, 2005


    An SUV barrel-rolled down Interstate 4 near Universal Studios on Saturday, killing a 9-year-old boy and seriously injuring his father and two sisters.

    The sport utility vehicle rolled seven times, scattering the four family members, along with debris, across three traffic lanes and two exit lanes, Orlando police Lt. Brian Gilliam said. None of the four was wearing a seat belt, he said.

    The crash occurred about 5 p.m., and the eastbound lanes of I-4 were closed for more than 31/2 hours. At one point, traffic was backed up about 13 miles to Epcot Center Drive, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Traffic-homicide investigators aren't sure why the driver lost control of the vehicle, Gilliam said. The driver might have experienced a tire blowout or drifted to the right and overcorrected, he said.

    The victims' names were not released Saturday night, but the family was from Minneola, Gilliam said.

    For whatever reason, the SUV veered to the right, almost hitting a guardrail, then swerved back to the left, witnesses told police. That's when the vehicle went into a roll, Gilliam said.

    Other eastbound vehicles managed to avoid the four victims, along with the debris that littered the road. Many stopped to help the victims until rescue workers arrived, Gilliam said.

    Watching the occupants being thrown from the SUV was gut-wrenching for the witnesses. "There were some very shook-up people," Gilliam said.

    "It was a mess," Orlando Assistant Fire Chief Greg Hoggatt said. Helicopters flew two of the injured to Orlando Regional Medical Center, and the third was taken there by ambulance, Hoggatt said.

    Eastbound traffic was diverted off I-4 at Sand Lake Road, but hundreds of drivers were trapped between that exit and the crash scene.

    Police closed the inside westbound lane so the trapped drivers could make a U-turn through the median.

    Gary Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@orlandosentinel.com or 407-772-8040.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  2. #2
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    Default

    I-4 crash deaths make guardrails top priority
    St. Petersburg Times

    Work will begin late this year or early next year on 22 miles of interstate, officials said.
    By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
    Published July 2, 2005

    --------------------------
    TAMPA - A deadly epidemic of Interstate 4 median crossover accidents in Hillsborough County has caused the state to speed up a program to install heavy-duty median guardrails that it once hoped to avoid using on Florida's busiest highways.

    Florida Department of Transportation District 7 officials decided this week to accelerate the guardrail program on 22 miles of I-4 in Hillsborough County between Interstate 75 and the Polk County line after three crossover accidents claimed four lives in 10 days.

    Contracts will be signed for the I-4 work in October, and it will begin late this year or early next year, FDOT officials said Friday.

    The decision is the latest in an evolving state transportation policy that began several years ago when FDOT officials realized that extra-wide grassy medians without guardrails were not preventing head-on collisions in crossover accidents on interstates. They have been working ever since to get guardrails in place as fast as budget constraints allow. The plan is to put median barriers on every interstate in Florida and toll roads operated by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise.

    "Guardrails in themselves are a hazard," said Dwayne Kile, design engineer for FDOT. "Guardrails don't stop accidents. When they're hit, they flex and then deflect the vehicles back in the direction they came from. But if a car is thrown back into traffic going in the same direction, an accident will probably be less severe than a head-on collision in opposing traffic."

    Officials expressed concern Friday about traffic conditions on I-4 and other area expressways over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. They promised a heightened police presence - often in unmarked vehicles - on area interstates and toll roads.

    "We're going to be working with the Highway Patrol to supplement their resources to assist on the interstate," said Col. Greg Brown, head of patrol services for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "This county should not be one of the most dangerous in the state to drive in."

    Brown said he suspects that excessive speed, improper lane changes, tailgating and inattention are at the root of most crossover accidents, with inattention including such things as talking on cell phones and eating while driving.

    "It's time to drive and do those other things when you get to where you're (going)," he said.

    In 1977, the federal standard for median width with no guardrails was 30 feet. But as growth and traffic and speeds increased, Florida decided to require guardrails on any median narrower than 64 feet, and that has been FDOT's standard since 1991.

    "Our new medians are at least 88 feet, well above the standard," Kile said. "We thought this was plenty of room for a driver to regain control of a vehicle that left the road, but, apparently, it isn't."

    FDOT began to notice the trend in crossover crashes more than two years ago, and commissioned a study that determined 80 percent of them happened within a mile of interchanges. In the five-year study period, I-4 had 206 crossover accidents, more by far than any other interstate in Florida.

    "They seemed to be caused by people jockeying for position to get off of the interstate or onto it," said FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson.

    District 7, which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, devised a $50-million program that included 97 new guardrail projects on I-4, I-75 and I-275. The recent accidents prompted officials to move up the I-4 work by two months.

    "It was the best we could do," Carson said.

    The new guardrails along I-4 are called thribeam, Carson said. The metal sides ripple, and each has three humps. Two-hump beams and even metal rope barriers will be used on other roads, she said.

    Florida's Turnpike Enterprise just completed a $54-million program that installed guardrails along 203 miles of median statewide.

    --Times staff writer Brian White contributed to this report.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  3. #3
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    Default Another Fatal Accident Follows Shooting over Car Sale

    St. Petersburg Times

    Fatal crash also homicide case, police say
    By Times Staff
    Published July 2, 2005

    ----------------------------------

    TAMPA - What looked like another fatal case of a distracted driver crossing the median on Interstate 4 Wednesday was actually a homicide, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    A suspect was arrested Thursday.

    An autopsy of the driver, Mark Franklin, 32, found Thursday that he was shot six times before the accident, with wounds to his shoulder, neck, arm, knee and back. Franklin was driving west on I-4 in a 1991 Pontiac Bonneville and either passed out or died from the wound in his back, sending the car across the median, Sheriff's Office spokesman J.D. Callaway said.

    The Bonneville crashed into an oncoming 2003 Ford Explorer just west of Interstate 75 at 3:09 p.m. Benjamin Peek, 42, who was riding in the passenger seat of the Bonneville, died in the collision.

    Both men lived in Tampa.

    The driver of the Explorer, Maria Tovar of Wimauma, was injured and taken to Brandon Hospital.

    Callaway said Barry Joseph Johnson, 22, shot Franklin with a .22-caliber handgun between 2:30 and 3 p.m. after an argument over the sale of a car. Johnson, of Seffner, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

    [Last modified July 2, 2005, 01:23:40]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

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