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Six Are Killed in Related Crashes on I-95 as Palm Coast Wreck’s Back-up Triggers Fiery Pile-Up at County Line 12 Miles North

| June 1, 2014

The pick-up truck jumped the guard-rail, ejecting a passenger, and crashing into a sedan. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The pick-up truck jumped the guard-rail, ejecting the driver, and crashing into a sedan. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

A fatal wreck involving two pick-up trucks and a car took place at mile marker 288 on I-95, about a mile south of the intersection with Palm Coast Parkway, at 5:45 Saturday afternoon.


Michael Benjamin Chance Smith, 17, of Jacksonville, and Pamela Taylor Thor, 56, of St. Augustine, were killed.

Roy R. White, 38, of Jacksonville, Michael J. Mervis, 53, of Boynton Beach and Kimberly P. Martinson, 47, of Boynton Beach, all sustained minor injuries in the Palm Coast wreck.

On Monday morning, FHP released the names of the victims of the related wreck at the county line. They were: Nilda Valentine Rivera, 41, of Palm Coast; Barbara Carol Pennington, 50, of Lakeland; Jonathan Jay Ruiz, a 1-year-old boy from Jacksonville, and Kristin J. Ruiz, 25, of Palm Coast.

The wreck shut down traffic in both directions of the interstate, and caused significant back-ups on Palm Coast Parkway, where the Palm Coast Fire Police established a series of detours, preventing traffic from entering the highway in the southbound lanes but not the northbound lanes.

The back-up in the southbound lane stretched 12 miles north, and led to another series of fatality when a commercial truck according to the Florida Highway Patrol, plowed into stopped traffic, igniting a massive fire and killing at least four people. Eight passenger vehicles and three trucks were involved in that wreck, which took place just north of the Flagler-St. Johns County Linet 7:28 p.m.

As of Sunday morning, I-95 in Palm Coast was open, but the southbound lanes of I-95 at the county line remained closed. Names of the victims have not yet been released.

The southbound lanes stayed closed until 2:30 p.m. Sunday, when all reopened.

As of 6:40 p.m. Saturday, traffic had been entirely at a standstill on all six lanes near Palm Coast Parkway, northbound and southbound, at the scene of the crash.

The wreckage at the scene in Palm Coast indicates that Roy White was driving a 2001 Chevy pick-up truck northbound, with Michael Smith as his passenger. White lost control, swerved onto the shoulder then overcorrected, violently smashing against the guard rail. White’s Chevy, a beige-colored vehicle, then went airborne toward and into the southbound lanes, against hapless traffic.

The pick-up truck then struck a burgundy-colored Honda Civic heading south, driven by Pamela Thor, shearing its passenger compartment. Both vehicles ended up into the woods, on the right side of the southbound lanes, the Honda into the wood-line, the Chevy truck parallel to the woods. A third vehicle, a black 2005 Chevy Silverado driven by Michael Mervis, was also struck by the other pick-up after it struck the Honda. But Mervis and Martinson, the occupants of that pick-up truck, were at the scene and appeared to be unhurt.

Ken Peoples witnessed the crash. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Ken Peoples witnessed the crash. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Ken Peoples, who turned 50 yesterday, was at the wheel of a loaded, 18-ton auto transport truck, driving home from Jacksonville to South Daytona, when he witnessed the scene. “I was coming down southbound, I was in the right-hand lane, and all of a sudden I see a truck come over the median, hit the guardrail and go airborne. I saw it hit a red vehicle, and after that I saw a gentleman get ejected out. In the right lane I veered away from him, and then as I was going to park on the shoulder, my truck, I saw, as I know now, a Honda going into the woods. It was just rough.” He added: I would have killed the guy in the road if I hadn’t maneuvered out of the way.”

Further describing the scene, he said “it was like the bullet. Didn’t go straight up, it went at an angle, west, and it was spinning, all of a sudden I saw it hit the red truck but I never saw it hit this pick-up truck. I saw the body come out, that’s probably because I never saw the pick-up truck, and I had to veer away from him.” As soon as he parked his truck, he ran to to the pick-up truck victim to see if he was OK. “He was unconscious, there was blood coming out his ears, there was blood gushing down on the road. And then all of a sudden he looked like he went into convulsions. That’s when I walked away and came down to check on this other person and then I found out that person was deceased.”


Peoples, who’s been driving trucks for 25 years, said he has witnessed such crashes before, as those are the perils of the job. “Years ago I saw a semi truck making a U-turn and a Camaro ended up underneath, decapitated the person. I didn’t actually see that happen because I saw there was a ball in the road at that time, which I thought was a ball. Later on I found out it was a person’s head. I’ve seen a bunch of stuff.”

Saturday’s wreck required the response of Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, which landed in the southbound lanes shortly after the collision. Smith had been ejected from his pick-up truck was transported first to Florida Hospital Flagler because the 17 year old was too unstable to fly immediately to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach. He was stabilized there then flown to Halifax, but later died. He had not been wearing a seat belt, according to the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation. White, however, was wearing one.

The wreck is every driver’s nightmare, the result of an unexpected, virtually inevitable freak accident guard rails are supposed to prevent, but sometimes cannot, leaving drivers in the opposite direction helpless to react.

Motorists were asked to avoid I-95 in that area, exiting at State Road 100 if coming from the south, and at Palm Coast Parkway if coming from the north. Motorists are also asked to avoid Palm Coast Parkway.

At 7:16 p.m., all northbound lanes reopened to traffic. But southbound lanes remained closed.

The southbound lanes were strewn with debris, including a wheel, a fender, and innumerable shards, coils, and shreds of fabric.

The Palm Coast Fire Department sent two engines to the scene, Flagler County Fire Rescue sent three ambulance units and at least one engine, and both the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Coast Fire Police were called into traffic control duty because of the vastness of the area to be controlled. Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle, along with his shift supervisor, Capt. Mark Valente, and Flagler County’s shift supervisor, Capt. Richard Bennett, also responded.

Just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday, FHP personnel and other first-responders from St. Johns County responded to an equally violent wreck, this one reportedly involving a tanker truck, or a semi-truck, that caught fire in a collision just north of the St. Johns-Flagler County Line, at mile marker 302. The collision was apparently caused by the line of vehicles being stopped for the Flagler wreck. That wreck kept all southbound lanes closed until the next day. Commenters below witnessed the crash.

An FHP report on that crash noted that it was triggered by a semi truck plowing into the line of cars, for unknown reasons at this time. Two semi trucks caught fire as a result, killing one semi occupant and two in a passenger car. Another vehicle overturned after impact, causing the driver of that vehicle to die at the scene, the report states. Several other crash victims were injured and transported to Shands Hospital in Jacksonville and Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine.

FHP investigators in the southbound lanes. (c FlaglerLive)

FHP investigators in the southbound lanes. (c FlaglerLive)


The damaged guard rail. (c FlaglerLive)

The damaged guard rail. (c FlaglerLive)


The wreck involving two trucks on I-95 completely shut down the interstate in both directions shortly after 5:45 Saturday evening. (c FlaglerLive)

The wreck involving two trucks on I-95 completely shut down the interstate in both directions shortly after 5:45 Saturday evening. (c FlaglerLive)


The pick-up truck that jumped the guard rail. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The pick-up truck that jumped the guard rail. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The smashed guardrail. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The smashed guardrail. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The Honda, whose driver was killed. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The Honda, whose driver was killed. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The scene at dusk. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The scene at dusk. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The third vehicle involved in the wreck, and its survivors. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The third vehicle involved in the wreck, and its survivors. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The wreck immobilized traffic and turned opposite lanes into a desert. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The wreck immobilized traffic and turned opposite lanes into a desert. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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48 Responses for “Six Are Killed in Related Crashes on I-95 as Palm Coast Wreck’s Back-up Triggers Fiery Pile-Up at County Line 12 Miles North”

  1. Deborah says:

    No turn around available.

  2. Bill says:

    Seems like we have had a large number if fatalities at this exit, what is going on ?

  3. DaLeeta says:

    We were stopped in the southbound lanes at the Flagler/St Johns line from the accident in Palm Coast. A Semi rear ended another semi and took out a couple cars about 8 cars behind us and blew up! I am pretty sure the driver of the semi that caused that accident died and not sure about the people in the cars. I was VERY upset and I didn’t see the accident but saw the smoke as soon as it started. We turned around and saw that the cab was in full flame. I pray for all involved in that accident. Broke my heart!

    • LAWABIDINGCITIZEN says:

      bill, 95 in genereal has a large # of fatalities. this exit has nothing specific compared to any other exit

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you for the up to date information, we were in that traffic completly lost as to what had happened. My wife checked this website hourly and we appreciate your reporting. We pray for the families involved.

  5. Steve Wolfe says:

    We have so many road and weather conditions that can affect the accident rate. So what is it about driving in a straight line on a clear day that creates such horrific accidents? This short stretch of I-95 has seen more than its share.

  6. Tofu says:

    And we almost raised the speed limit in this State to 75?

  7. Brian says:

    Southbound I-95 is now reopened.

  8. Ricky says:

    I helped an im pretty sure the semi driver that rear end the other semi driver is the only casualty. Other drivers of vehicles went to hospital. 2 for sure went to hospital .

  9. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    Pray for those still alive. Its a matter of numbers, the traffic and people have increased and when that happens it just a matter time before bad things happen to good people.

  10. Abby says:

    I got caught in the northbound traffic right after the accident in Palm Coast happened. We were stopped for almost 45 mins to an hour when people started turning around and were driving southbound on the northbound shoulders. It was crazy. One impatient person did it and then everyone followed. It was like there was going to be another accident waiting to happen. My prayers go out to the family of the deceased.

    • Tiffany says:

      Actually, I was at the front of the jam in the first wreck and all vehicles were directed by emergency service personnel to travel the opposite direction using the shoulders. Everyone was directed to their nearest exit to evacuate the roads.

    • Anonymous says:

      We were in the Northbound lane is the stopped traffic as well….It was an awful evening with those two wrecks….AWFUL!

  11. Enlightened says:

    And they wanted to raise the speed limit. I am glad that never passed. We need to lower it back to 55. There are way too many fatalities in this state. Here’s a thought, why not have law enforcement do their job and catch those who are speeding. What a great idea. I just came back from driving up north and Florida was the only state with no highway patrol pulling over speeders. Shame on us!

  12. Greg says:

    I was going southbound to Daytona Beach. I was mad because i had to go all the way by US 1. My wife told me. At least you are arriving late but arriving. Others won’t.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Bill , I would say it maybe was” SPEED” but i could be wrong

  14. Tired of it all says:

    Excess speed. People go 80 plus and weave in and out of traffic. See it every time I drive on I95. Enforce the speed limit. Also, get all trucks in the right hand lanes and keep them there. Why not reduce the speed limit thru Palm Coast to 60 on I95? They do it up in Jax, reduce the speed thru town.

  15. Well... says:

    Speed is a nice scapegoat. How about people off in another world? Do you know how many people I see texting, shaving, watching something on a dash monitor, playing games, or deaf people arguing with their hands – all while driving. I may drive a little fast but I’m eyes on the road and in my mirrors all the time. My cell phone is in my pocket and my iPod is on a playlist I will not need to skip. In the 21 years I have had my license I have never been in an accident. Sure it could happen because of someone else doing something other then paying attention. I see what people are doing when they drive and 90% are somewhere else, which is dangerous to me and the other 10% that are just trying to get from point A to point B in one piece. Instead of reducing speed on the highway how about the police enforce the state law of fining people that are moving 10 miles slower then the speed limit in the fast lane. I have come up on many people in the fast lane that “box” you in doing less then the speed limit, much less, and that is dangerous. They should be pulled over and fined per the law just like if I go over I should be pulled over and fined as well. The number one cause of road rage and road rage related incidents is slow moving vehicles (Google it). And another thing, common sense (which I know many people lack) says slow down when the roads are wet…less traction, less skid time, chance of hydroplaning, etc. Bottom line – some people just don’t deserve a license to drive, it should be considered a luxury and not a right….retest everyone every 5-10 years to see if they are capable of driving per the law….if necessary, how about adding more public transportation? This town wants to pretend it’s a big city but really it is failing it’s citizens in every way.

    • Brian says:

      Technically, Florida does not have a “fast” lane. The left lane is for passing only according to state traffic laws. And there are signs posted all along I-95 suggesting that slower traffic to keep to the right, although there is not a law requiring them to do it. Texting is only a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement cannot pull people over simply for texting. They must have probable cause to pull you over and then add the texting charge onto the main violation.

  16. Linda says:

    Always say I love you everyday to your family. One of the fatalities is my daughter in laws mother who had just left the hospital after visiting her new grandchild born the day before. You never know whats going to happen. Please keep the family in your prayers. This is just a horrific tragedy.

    • Dontcare says:

      Vey sorry to hear that, everyone involed will be in my prayers, an very sorry for yalls loss as well,

    • A.S.F. says:

      I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my sympathies to your entire family.

    • DaLeeta Mullaley says:

      Linda,
      I cried when I read this. I am a 51 yr old grandmother and my heart breaks for her and her family! As you might have read in earlier posts, I was only 5 to 8 cars in front of the second accident and had just changed lanes to get in the left hand lane in case I had to turn around. Had I not change lanes more than likely I would have been caught in the second accident. I did turn around, for the first time in my life, crossed the median but was sick yesterday and needed to get to the rest area. That scene will forever be etched in my brain. When I saw the semi burning at that point the cab was on fire, my chest started hurting and so did my left arm. I was heartbroken. I am praying for all those that lost loved ones yesterday and for those like me that saw one of the most horrific sites in my personal life.

  17. JoJo says:

    If the general public knew the manning zones of FHP is this State I think they would be alarmed. Sometimes there is only one Trooper that will cover two counties. Troopers can spend their whole eight hour tour issuing speeding violations without making a dent in driver awareness. Troopers respond to other calls which can be backed up with the more serious answered first. FHP Troopers have been undermanned in this State for years and for every speeder caught there are thousands that get by. One way to cut down on speeders if the Florida legislators don’t want to hire additional Troopers is to implement speed radars on the whole length of I95. No one escapes. Some drivers don’t obey the speed limit and when you hit speeders in the wallet – it hurts. Better than getting hurt in a bad accident such as this one. This accident could have been a lot worse. Some European countries and some States already have this. Slow down folks – speed kills!

    • Nancy N. says:

      Speed radars actually CAUSE accidents according to UK government statistics, and the UK is removing many as a result. The problem is that they cause drivers to have to drive constantly watching their speedometer instead of watching the road. The UK uses a lot of speed radar on highways. Statistics showed that accident rates went DOWN when the speed monitoring was taken off of stretches of road, versus the same stretches of road when the speed monitoring was in place.

      • Helene says:

        Nancy, I would hope drivers are checking their speed! What a ridiculous thing to say. Everyone should eyeball their speed when they are driving to make sure they are going the speed limit. People should also be able to gauge how fast their vehicle is going and quickly glance at their speedometer to check. And lastly, if all else fails, put on cruise control. One would have to be a terrible driver not to know they are going over the speed limit (I’m not talking about 5 miles over but definitely should know if they are going 10 miles over). The drivers in Florida, and especially on the interstates, drive like maniacs! I am terrified to drive on 95 and avoid it at all costs. If my children or someone I know is traveling on 95, I am in a state of constant worry until I know they have arrived. Drivers need to obey the speed laws, stop following closely, stop cutting in and out from both sides and try to pass on the left – it is just common sense. And yes there should be radar monitors if the state can’t afford more patrol officers.

  18. Genie says:

    I was out on I-95 one day when a semi got on my rear bumper. I was doing 80, with the other traffic. I kept moving over to the right, and so did he. It was the stuff nightmares are made of. I called 911 to report him and they told me to get off the freeway at the next exit.

    They made no attempt to go after this man. The state knows this is happening.

    • Michelin Mann says:

      Next time do the speed limit and he’ll pass. And if you’re near a weigh station when this happens–drive in as you dial 9-1-1. Don’t provoke these maniacs, don’t look at them, don’t brake-check them.
      You will lose the battle if you engage.

      And keep your speed under 75 (better yet, do the speed limit), you’ll get better MPG as a small reward. As this article will attest, carelessness and excessive speed kills.

      If you were “with the other traffic” how did the big rig manage to get behind you at every turn????
      Was he cutting off other people wholesale?

      Be a defensive driver Genie. Your odds will improve exponentially.

      • Genie says:

        @ Michelin Mann, there is no contest between a semi and a car. The car loses every time. I always move over immediately if someone is approaching. This man was not interested in passing me. He clearly was enjoying terrorizing me.

        FYI, this was mid morning, few cars on the road. That’s how he was able to do this.

        Thanks for the tips. I appreciate them.

      • boomer says:

        why would you call me a maniac. i live in palm coast and happen to be one of those crazy truck drivers. oh, i have a family too and 1.5 million safe miles driven. DO NOT STEREOTYPE people it’s not nice. and yes, every industry has a bad apple or two. just look at our own government. Don’t judge all that you do not know. I will say that most, if not all small vehicles are dangerous, put down the phone and open your eys.

  19. Diane says:

    and the state wants to raise the speed limit on I-95 to 80… so if 80 all drivers will be driving 90 …….this is sick!!!!!…..so sad and prayers to the fails & friends…

  20. Rob says:

    We need more car control laws. Start confiscating them.

  21. liberal says:

    The speed limit should be 60 for cars and 55 for trucks. AND there should be tall concrete barriers in the median. Speed kills.

  22. Tired of it all says:

    As the cops say; SLOW DOWN!!!!!

  23. Heikel says:

    My friend from many years ago was one who was killed the semi rear-ended her causing the car to catch fire. She died on the scene. The crying hasn’t stopped, she left two children under 10 and a loving husband… Swallow ur pride and say sorry and I love u…

  24. Sandra Reynolds says:

    I95 is a nightmare. I avoid it if possible. Husband drives it every day for work. He stays in right lane up and back at night. He has to deal with the big rigs too. I can’t wait until he retires. There is no such thing as “an accident.”. It is a crash. So sorry for the injured and families of those killed.

    • Tired of it all says:

      “I95 is a nightmare. I avoid it if possible.” Agreed, same with us. It’s a dangerous disgrace. The stretch between here and Jax is a real no man’s land. Drivers go 80-90mph and get away with it.

      • Johnny Lightning (aka Geezer) says:

        I-95 from LPGA Blvd. to the I-4 interchange.
        I get extra religious when I drive through there.
        I always say “Jesus.”

        My former neighbor, Trooper Darryl Haywood lost his life there.
        (he was pursuing a loser who was going over 100 MPH.)

        I see big rigs and all sorts of human detritus entering I-95, merging in without regard for anyone.
        The road curves there and is especially interesting when it rains.

        It’s evil, that stretch of road. I dare say that it will convert any atheist!

  25. confidential says:

    This is a horrible tragedy for all the innocent killed including the young child….I can’t even imagine his cries if was killed by the fire.
    Was texting involved with these 2 or 3 drivers causing the accidents? When are we going to come up with a device in “all vehicles that when the engine is turned on the I-Phone or texting goes dead” ? We need that and now. I drive I-95 and everywhere concerned now for our safety because the maniacs texting while driving. Has to be stopped!.
    Also why was not the FHP Troupers in person slowing down the traffic at the end of the lines in the St John/Flagler County line? We pay for services that are diminished as time goes by in order to fork our taxes for the benefit instead of very powerful special interest.

  26. Knows it all says:

    If the FHP can pull the owner of the Chevy pickup’s cell phone records they can check the pings and text record and see if he was texting. If so he can be held for vehicular manslaughter. There’s a lot of people driving aimlessly down the internet texting.

  27. Johnny Lightning says:

    I avoid i95 during the day, and opt for US1. I don’t know the stats but it sure seems safer (in daytime).
    Deer and other animals make it a scary challenge dusk thru dawn.
    i95 is my choice at those times.

    US1 for daytime
    i95 for after dark

    It’s worked for me until now.

    I feel awful about the six people who died in this awful convergence of events.
    It is both sad and sobering. Let’s all be extra careful on the road.

  28. Jim R. says:

    The Reason why there are fires when an 18 wheeler is involved in a crash is because there is a pollution control device that heats up to in excess of 1000 degrees and it is located near the fuel tanks. That bus and truck crash that recently took so many lives was most likely caused by this, and the authorities seem to want to act like they dont know what caused the fire.

  29. Billy Bob says:

    Am I the only one who noticed that the guardrail in the picture is obviously way too low to stop a truck? From the pictures it appears to only be about 16″ high. Factoring that in I wouldn’t be surprised if the FHP finds the truck was traveling under 70mph at the moment it impacted the guardrail and that it was the angle of the impact (straight on vs. glancing blow) rather than simply excessive speed that caused the truck to become airborne.

    There are so many other reasons this could have happened other than the typical culprits (speeding and texting). A tire could have blown out. A suspension, steering, or braking component could have suddenly failed or seized up. The truck was navigating a curve at the time control was lost. So any mechanical issue (especially with the rear of the truck) could have caused it to oversteer and rotate to a nearly perpendicular position relative to the guardrail upon impact. The fact that the truck became airborne may have had absolutely nothing to do with speeding or texting and more to do with vehicle mass vs. impact angle vs. guardrail height.

  30. the unknown says:

    my cousin was one of the victims on this crash. we will like to know if the truck driver that hit her car died, did he fall asleep, was he texting? we don’t know whether her car was the one in between the 2 trucks. we don’t know if her car also exploted with the 2 trucks. We will like to know who witness the impact.

  31. Taylor says:

    Mike was a personal friend on me.. I hated havin to find this out, he was just trying to further himself..

    • Angie says:

      I have searched the obituaries in Jacksonville for Michael but have not seen anything. Do you know the arrangements or the name of the funeral home?

  32. ryan says:

    This is usually the result of people who think getting out of the left lane is swallowing their pride and backing down, rather than moving over so that they don’t cause a road rage incident. It is as if people in this area feel that the lane they are driving in is all they have going for them.

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