Last Updated: 8:08 p.m.
A Waste Pro garbage truck on its run through the Woodlands this morning overturned flipped on its side in front of 1, Bay Spring Place, near the intersection with Oak Trails Boulevard, trapping A man below.
Demont’e Harris, 21, of Palm Coast, one of two Waste Pro crew members, died within moments as neighbors and the driver rushed and attempted to save him. Neighbors helped the driver, 42-year-old Marcus Thames, out of the truck by smashing out the driver’s side windshield. Thames is from Daytona Beach.
The crash took place a few minutes before 10 a.m.–the first of four calls to 911 came in at 9:51 a.m.–as the garbage truck was driving the brief north segment of Bay Springs immediately past a sharp curve before it joins with Oak Trails. It isn’t yet clear why the truck flipped on its side. A neighbor said it appeared that its right wheels may have sank into a soggy swale and precipitated the crash.
A neighbor heard the truck crash from about a block and a half away and, as did others, ran to the scene. He said he heard Thames “screaming and crying,” as Harris was trapped below the truck. “His shoulder, his hand, was under the truck, but his head was not,” the witness said. He said Harris gasped for air a couple of times and expired.
“All the neighbors here,” he said, “they tried to dig him out, they tried to move the truck–you can’t move the truck.” A paramedic pronounced Demont’e Harris dead at 10:07 a.m.
Harris had graduated from Matanzas High School, which has grieved through the loss of several of its students or recent graduates in the last five years.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office was first at the scene, followed by Flagler County Fire Rescue and Palm Coast Fire Department paramedics, as Flagler County’s Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, launched. But within minutes, the call was cancelled as Harris was pronounced dead. Florida Highway Patrol investigators arrived shortly afterward. The Palm Coast Fire Police diverged traffic from the area of the crash, which was roped off.
A Roger’s Towing truck arrived at the scene but was standing by, as the body would not be removed before investigators conducted preliminary analysis, and the Medical Examiner’s office released the body. The examiner arrived at 11:54 a.m., and his office’s recovery team removed the body at 12:30 p.m.
Family members of the victim were at the scene at around 12:45 p.m., speaking with an FHP supervisor.
Five different neighbors independently said they’ve seen Waste Pro’s trucks go too fast through streets and several speculated that the truck may have taken the curve too fast. “These guys drive so fast through the neighborhood, it’s scary,” a woman said.
FHP would not conclude on a cause of the crash until the completion of its investigation. A supervisor at the scene confirmed that it was a “single-vehicle event,” and that no other vehicle had been in the vicinity of the truck, or passing it by, at the time of the crash.
Part of the investigation, carried out at 1:30 p.m. after Roger’s Towing righted the truck on its wheels, was to weigh the truck using portable scales that can weigh up to 20,000 pounds for each axle. A supervising investigator at the scene said according to state regulations, the truck could weigh up to 64,000 pounds. The truck’s weight came in at considerably less than that, investigators found.
In one call to 911, a woman tells the dispatcher: “We have a dump truck that tilted over I think one of the drivers is underneath.” She provides the address.
“Oh my god,” another caller is heard whispering before the 911 dispatcher picks up (911 calls begin their recording as soon as the line rings at the dispatch center). “A truck just turned on one of the residential streets, his whole truck went over,” the caller continued, nervous and confused about her whereabouts.
Yet another caller provided graphic details and said the victim’s leg was “on fire,” and that the fire had been put out by neighbors. “It’s a big truck, it went right over,” she said as she noted sheriff’s deputies arriving.
A fire extinguisher was used to put out a fire, an investigator at the scene said, though it was unclear if the fire affected Harris’s clothes or if it was from paper products the truck was carrying that caught on fire after spilling out, and coming in contact with a hot exhaust pipe. (The fire extinguisher sat a few feet from the scene of the crash.)
There was no fuel spillage requiring any intervention by environmental or haz-mat clean-up crews: the truck was operated by natural gas.
FHP released a terse summary of the incident this evening: “A Waste Pro truck was traveling in the northbound lane on Bay Springs Place. The truck crossed into the outside shoulder and overturned on the right side of the roadway. The vehicle was at final rest on [its] right side on the east portion of Bay Springs Place where the passenger was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Waste Pro is the contracted garbage hauler for Palm Coast and Flagler County. Today’s crash is the third serious incident involving a Waste Pro Truck in two months, but the first involving a fatality since the company has been servicing either Palm Coast or Flagler since 2007. In late September, a Waste Pro crew member was injured when his own truck ran over him in Palm Coast’s B Section. The driver had been unaware that the man had fallen off the step on the passenger side of the truck. Days earlier, a Waste Pro truck was incinerated on County Road 305.
“It’s a tragic way to start a long holiday weekend,” Sheriff Rick Staly said, “and I remind our residents and visitors to drive safely, be aware of your surroundings, and let’s do our best to have a safe holiday weekend.”
Waste Pro was contacted at 2:45 p.m., seeking comment about the crash and requesting information as to where and how Palm Coast residents could show their support to the Harris and Thames families. Waste Pro did not respond.