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Tractor Trailer Crashes Into 3 Parked, Mostly Empty School Buses on I-95, Four Injured

| June 17, 2015

One of the three buses mangled in the crash Tuesday night on I-95 just north of Palm Coast Parkway. (c FlaglerLive)

One of the three buses mangled in the crash Tuesday night on I-95 just north of Palm Coast Parkway. (c FlaglerLive)

A tractor trailer on a route from Miami to Jacksonville crashed into three parked and empty school buses as the buses’ drivers were working on one of them on the side of I-95 just north of the Palm Coast Parkway exit at 11 p.m. Tuesday.


The school buses had been gutted and had no seats in them, and were used to transport watermelons, but had no cargo. Two of the three bus drivers were taken to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach, one of them in critical condition, the other in serious condition. The driver of the semi sustained only minor injuries and was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler and was soon released. He was back at the scene of the crash this morning.

“I was coming north and came upon some stopped vehicles,” James Harris, 45, the driver of the semi, said as he stood on the side of I-95 this morning, watching the last of the buses be towed. “I couldn’t veer out fast enough, I came up on them too fast, next thing I know, impact—the crunching of metal and breaking glass. I closed my eyes and just prayed to God. It was the longest few seconds of my life.”

Originally from Alabama, Harris, now a resident of Miami, has been driving trucks for 23 years. This was his first wreck, he said. The truck was loaded but not full, and was on its way to Atlanta, after Jacksonville.

The driver of the third school bus was missing most of the night. After daylight, he reemerged from the woods. “The missing person was found and transported to the hospital,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. It’s not clear why he had been in the woods the whole night.

“They had four vehicles they could only find three people, the fourth one was just found this morning,” Petito said. “He was just sitting in the woods. I don’t know the whole story behind it but he didn’t want to be fund. State troopers found him.” All three bus drivers reportedly had Mexican passports.

The school buses were owned by Rodrigo Gutierrez Tapia of Wachula, Fla. He is president of Gutierrez Trucking, and owns Gutierrez Harvesting, according to the Department of State, a company formed in 2014.

The wreck shut down I-95 northbound for several hours. The Palm Coast Fire Police, which regulated traffic, rerouted traffic at State Road 100, until two lanes were reopened early this morning. The wreck was completely cleared by 9 a.m., with Bunnell-based John’s Towing removing the wreckage (with some help from Roger’s Towing due to the extent of damage.)

“They were on the side of the road working on one bus, tractor trailor came and ran into all three buses, knocked them into the woods,” Petito said. The three school bus drivers were all working on one of the buses, though one of them was in the thick of the engine at the time of the crash. He sustained the most serious injuries.

Four rescue units were at the scene, and a fifth staged at Palm Coast Parkway and I-95. “Once it boiled down to it it was a basic scene other than trying to extricate the one guy from the carnage,” Petito said, “but when you first hear it’s school buses and a tractor trailer you wonder, is it a football team or what, and when you get there the buses don’t even have seats in them.”

tractor trailer wreck i-95

The tractor portion of the What was left of James Harris’s tractor portion of his truck. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


One of the less-damaged of the three school buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

One of the less-damaged of the three school buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


One of the buses was severed from its chassis. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

One of the buses was severed from its chassis. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


bus wreck i-95

The white bus’ chassis. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The interior of one of the buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The interior of one of the buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The tractor's cab. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The tractor’s cab. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


One of the three buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

One of the three buses. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


school bus wreck i-95

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


The salvaging operation. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The salvaging operation. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


portlanbd timbers

One of the drivers is a soccer fan. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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20 Responses for “Tractor Trailer Crashes Into 3 Parked, Mostly Empty School Buses on I-95, Four Injured”

  1. PCer says:

    I hope everyone is okay, but really? This is funny stuff. You can’t make this up.

  2. buylocal says:

    They were parked on the highway or to the side??

    • gmath55 says:

      I guess some people can’t read. A tractor trailer on a route from Miami to Jacksonville crashed into three parked and empty school buses as the buses’ drivers were working on one of them on the side of I-95 just north of the Palm Coast Parkway exit at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

      On the side. Duh!

      • ken says:

        be nice

        • Anonymous says:

          There is really no “side”. There is approximately enough room on the side of the road for 1/3 the width of a school bus. So, they had to be sticking out 1/2 to 3/4 of their width into the highway. After that it was grass that went down on a slant, I think they would have gotten stuck in the grass.
          I drove through there approximately 10:45AM, the morning after it happened. Also, I drove a school bus for 13 years. :)

  3. whyinmytown says:

    Why the hell were buses parked along I-95 when it’s illegal for even cars to be parked along there? Someone needs to be held accountable for this and face the consequences.

  4. Watchdog says:

    Unlicensed illegal aliens driving the busses…… No conception of the rules of the road …. There’s your cause

  5. Yeah, let’s give all the illegals a license. Let’s get on the Bus with that. Uh, maybe not the Bus……..

  6. Resident says:

    First all Johns Towing is based in St Augustine and Bunnell. With main shop being St Augustine. FURTHERMORE, since when is it illegal to break down on the side of I 95 or and road for that matter. Regardless of the bus driver’s license status does not play part in this accident.

  7. Outsider says:

    I’m curious to know why the one driver didn’t want to be found. Was he drinking, an illegal immigrant, or both? As an aside, I still don’t understand why we need to import workers when we have millions of people collecting welfare and unemployment. Maybe after several months of hard work in the fields they would be more motivated to find a job that suits them better.

  8. hank says:

    Don’t hire them. Don’t shop, eat, buy anything where illegals work. Don’t support people who hire them. These little things will make a difference. If everyone did these small acts it will help. Plus pass this info on. You’d be surprised when you tell someone this how it hits them and they realize they can have an impact on illegal immagration. Don’t depend on government to do anything. ..

  9. SW says:

    Regardless of immigration status If a vehicle is parked on the side of I-95 and broke down off the road How does a Trucker hit them in the right emergency lane off the Hi Way. Not doing his job and driving that’s how.

  10. Michael says:

    Hope eveyone is okay, now the bet is how many of the vehicles would pass a DOT inspection, I am betting none.

  11. Tired of it says:

    Outsider,
    Do you really think any of those lazy a## people are going to get a job when they keep getting the Dems handouts. There is plenty welfare people could do. Fix roads, sidewalks, pick up garbage, etc. Hell most of them won’t even clean up the free homes they live in, but they are always demanding more.

  12. Knowsalittle says:

    Amazing how so many people take a story about a motor vehicle accident and turn it into an immigration issue.

  13. markingthedays says:

    Shouldn’t we just call them busses, since they’re decommissioned?

    Also, shame on you in the comments for turning this into some anti-immigration campaign.

  14. Dana says:

    EVERY two-wheel safety class teaches target fixation. It’s usually the first thing you learn and the foundation for all other lessons, most importantly looking where you DO want to go. Why the H### do they not teach target fixation to prospective drivers of 4+ wheeled vehicles … and to investigating officers? This time at least they can’t say “it’s unknown why the driver left the roadway” when the driver admitted to being so distracted he didn’t even know he had left the road.

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