Jaime Hutcherson, a 23-year-old resident of Palm Coast, was killed following a wreck on U.S. 1 Saturday night after Hutcherson, riding his motorcycle, violently struck an SUV from behind, just past the Hess station and convenience store. Hutcherson, a graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School, was evacuated by Volusia County’s Air One to Halifax hospital in very critical condition, and died overnight.
Hutcherson struck a white Ford Explorer driven by Jesus Melendez-Prez, 35.
Florida Highway Patrol investigators at the scene said Melendez-Prez pulled out of the Hess station and drove north on the outside lane of the highway. The SUV had traveled some 200 feet further north when Hutcherson collided with it.
Melendez-Prez told FHP investigators that “he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the motorcycle kind of back and forth,” that is, swerving, the investigator said, describing the movement with his hand, “and the motorcycle collided with the SUV in the outside lane of U.S. 1.”
Melendez-Prez, the investigators said, was not at fault, nor had he been trying to switch lanes. Rather, he said, the driver of the SUV had “established his lane,” meaning that he was driving legally and normally in that lane after pulling out of the station. An investigator pointed to the marks on the pavement, where there were two successive swerve marks from the motorcycle, with tire marks in those two spots that showed where Hutcherson had very likely attempted to suddenly slow or stop. A third mark in the pavement–an actual gash rather than a tire mark–indicated the point of collision.
The rear-left of the SUV was smashed, and the rear windshield shattered. The occupants of the SUV were not injured.
Hutcherson was wearing eye protection, but not a helmet, an investigator said, and alcohol, as far as Hutcherson was concerned, “is a possible factor,” the FHP investigator said. It is not a factor with Melendez-Prez.
The heavily damaged motorcycle, an HRC, was in the center of the two lanes, facing north, after the wreck. The SUV had pulled to the right shoulder.
Hutcherson had been traveling north from Daytona Beach with a second motorcyclist.
Near Destination Daytona, the rider of the other motorcycle told an investigator, Hutcherson was able to make it through a traffic light. The other rider was not. So he sped to make up the ground, according to the investigator. “He told me that he was going at least 120,” the investigator said, referring to the second rider, “and he couldn’t keep up with this motorcyclist,” that is, Hutcherson. “That’s what he told me.”
Still, the investigators have not confirmed the speeds of either the SUV or the motorcycle at the point of impact, and all of their investigation is preliminary.
The crash took place between 8 and 9 p.m., almost simultaneous with another crash, in Flagler Beach on State Road A1A, involving a vehicle and a pedestrian. The pedestrian in that crash was evacuated as well, but was expected to survive. U.S. 1 northbound was shut down for a few hundred yards. Northbound traffic was diverted onto the southbound lanes of the highway, which were split to enable the two-way traffic. All lanes reopened after 11 p.m. The Palm Coast Fire Police directed traffic.
Relatives of Hutcherson’s were at the scene, or drove to it on their way to Halifax hospital, briefly surveying the damage there and speaking with authorities. The Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue, along with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the scene.
That stretch of U.S. 1 has been the scene of numerous wrecks this year, most of them involving motorcycles. James Ternullo, 51, was struck by a vehicle as he rode his motorscooter a little further south on Oct. 24. He suffered serious injuries. Tyler van Blavern, a 21-year-old motorcyclist, was found dead in a ditch on Sept. 25 on U.S. 1 just north of Bunnell. John Robinson, 33, was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle on Sept. 14, in the same general area of Saturday’s wreck. John Melvin, 56, was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle in early September, also in the same area of U.S. 1.