An 18-wheeler traveling north just past the Palm Coast weigh station on I-95 overturned this morning at 2:45 a.m., triggering a wreck with two other cars and spilling parts of its freight of tens of thousands of tons of Hanes-brand t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.
A 1999 Chevy Malibu from Palm Coast and a 2005 Honda SUV from Ormond Beach were involved in the wreck. Matthew Prickett, 24, of Palm Coast, driving the Malibu, was taken to Halifax Hospital in serious condition. Gordon Pfifer of Ormond Beach was at the wheel of the Honda Element SUV. He sustained minor injuries, and was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler.
The driver of the truck, Byron Washington, 43, was not injured. He was cited with careless driving. He remained at the scene through early morning, speaking with the Florida Highway Patrol and an insurance adjuster, watching the clean-up crew, and resting in a car. The insurance adjuster told the driver not to speak to a reporter, and the driver, asked about his destination or his age, would not comment.
Damage of the truck was put at $60,000. Each of the cars sustained $10,000 damage, according to the highway patrol.
The trailer itself blocked all three lanes of the Interstate for an hour, from about 3:30 to 4:30 a.m. until it was pushed to the east shoulder. The right lane remained closed until 8 a.m.
Sleep was not an issue: the truck had just pulled out of the weigh station, a few hundred yards south of the wreck scene. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Washington was driving north in the right lane when he noticed a vehicle ahead applying the brakes. Washington reached for a drink from his cooler and found himself drifting off the road.
Deep tire tracks show that Washington swerved off the road, past the emergency lane and onto the grassy, inclined shoulder, skimming by a light pole there. Tire marks show a wide arc over some 50 yards as the driver tried to swerve back onto the road. He did so, just before the following light pole, but the trailer didn’t. Instead, it tipped and smashed into the light pole, smashing it off its pedestal. The pole sheared off the top of the back-third of the trailer which, tipping, took the truck on its side with it. The truck slid another 50 yards or so across the asphalt until it came to a rest, its nose pointing northwest, near the guard rail and triggering the collisions with the two other cars.
Approximately three minutes later, according to the highway patrol, the Malibu and the Honda driving toward the scene noticed debris but not the truck itself. The Malibu struck the tractor tires and stopped facing north, in the left and center lanes. The SUV also struck the tires of the trailer and stopped in the same area.
Washington, the driver, worked for Greenville, Tenn.-based Forward Air Inc., which had an operating revenue of $133 million in the quarter ending in December 2010. One of the company’s regional hubs is in Orlando.
Two trailers were brought in for the clean-up. Some 12 workers toiled by the side of the road to pick up the dumped clothes, crush the boxes and pile them into the trailer. Another was readied to load the mostly undamaged load still in the overturned trailer. Both trailers, carrying an estimated 40,000 pounds of shirts, according to John’s Towing’s John Rogers, were to be driven to the company’s Orlando hub.