Olando Ellis, 63, Killed on I-95 Near Matanzas Exit When Semi Slams His Stalled Mercedes
FlaglerLive | January 30, 2017
Last Updated: Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.
Olando Ellis, 63, was killed as he sat in his stalled car on I-95 early this morning, when a tractor trailer slammed the car from behind on I-95 southbound, just before the Matanzas Woods Parkway interchange.
The crash took place at 3:18 a.m., closing two southbound lanes and three northbound lanes. Northbound traffic was diverted onto the emergency lane, and authorities at the scene were expecting a considerable back-up in both directions at daybreak, with rush hour traffic. Authorities were recommending that travelers avoid I-95 in both directions by taking U.S. 1 instead (at Palm Coast Parkway going north, or at Exit 298 going south). Clearing the scene was expected to take several hours.
Ellis, of Orange Park (also known as Olantriz Ellis), had reportedly called 911 for help just before the crash, and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper was on his way to respond to the call. Ellis had called because of car trouble. An FHP trooper at the scene said that from all appearances, Ellis’s Mercedes had lost electrical power. He said all its lights were off before it was struck, suggesting a problem with the car’s alternator. But that appears not to have been the case, as a witness who reported the disabled car later reported.
The Mercedes was in the right-most lane of the three southbound lanes. Ellis stayed in his car, waiting for authorities to show up. By Tuesday, authorities were reporting that Ellis himself had not made a 911 call, but that a trucker had reported the disabled car in the right lane: 911 notes indicate a “sedan stopped in traffic” at 3:06 a.m. That call came from a trucker who had to swerve to avoid the car. But the trucker also later told authorities that the car’s tail lights were on.
Edson Da Silva, 55, who was driving a 2005 Peterbilt 18-wheeler hauling tons of chain-link fencing, was traveling in the same right lane. He saw the car too late to avoid it, though it appears Da Silva had just begun to swerve left in an attempt to do just that.
The truck ended up crushing the Mercedes then tipping on its side and crashing the metal guardrail before coming to rest facing southeast, its cab in the northbound side of the Interstate, its trailer and cargo in the southbound side. Most of the cargo remained firmly in place. (911 notes refer to a call reporting the crash at 3:10 .m., followed by “multiple calls.”)
The Mercedes was crumpled beyond recognition and thrown onto the left shoulder of the southbound lanes, near the guardrail, some 30 or 40 feet north of the truck’s final position. The Medical Examiner was on his way from St. Augustine around 4:30 a.m. The victim was extricated from the car between 6:20 and 6:31 a.m.
Ellis was driving a 2005 Mercedes S420. Da Silva most likely does not face charges, an FHP trooper said at the scene, because he was not breaking traffic laws: the Mercedes was essentially blocking his right of way without lights on. Still, a trooper was taking the trucker, who was not visibly injured, to a local hospital for a voluntary blood draw, and to be checked out by physicians.
Of Ellis, the trooper said: “He’d done everything he knew how to do, from the call record.” Troopers, however, recommend that in such situations, drivers and their passengers exit the car and walk away from all travel lanes to safety, to await authorities, or if at all safely possible to put the vehicle in neutral and attempt to move it to an emergency lane. The man in the Mercedes may have remained in the car because of the cold: it was about 45 degrees this morning on the Interstate. But it is also possible that Ellis may have been having a medical issue.
The Palm Coast Fire Department, Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. FHP is conducting the traffic homicide investigation. The Palm Coast Fire Police was regulating traffic.
At around 6:45 a.m., John’s Towing of Bunnell was dispatched to the scene to remove the truck. Roger’s Towing of Bunnell was to remove the Mercedes. The salvaging operation was expected to take several hours from that point on, with the lanes restrictions remaining in place for the workers’ safety.