Early the morning of January 14, Eileen Palermo a 58-year-old resident of Palm Coast’s C-Section, was driving her 2011 Dodge Ram pick-up westbound on Palm Coast Parkway, and curving into the southbound on-ramp for I-95. She was in the inside lane of the two-lane on-ramp. A white vehicle was also entering the on-ramp, in the outside lane.
As both vehicles began making the turn, the white vehicle crossed into Palermo’s lane–and struck her Dodge. The front-left of the white vehicle collided with the rear wheel and cab area of the Dodge, on the passenger side, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office report. That portion of the cab was damaged, and the tire was cut severely enough that it immediately deflated.
The driver of the white vehicle kept going.
Later that afternoon, Samuel Souverain, a 61-year-old resident of Ryall Lane in Palm Coast, was arrested at his home. According to police, he’d been at the wheel of the white Honda Accord that had struck Palermo’s truck. Deputies had interviewed two witnesses after the crash, and had sought information from a set of electronic eyes: the red-light cameras Palm Coast has aggressively installed at dozens of intersections in the city in hopes of increasing revenue while cutting down on red-light runners.
The two witnesses had called the sheriff’s office to report seeing the crash (the two calls were placed within 15 minutes of each other, less than half an hour after the crash). They’d reported that after the crash the Honda had fled east on Palm Coast Parkway, toward Old Kings Road north. One witness described the driver of the vehicle. Another followed the vehicle and got its license tag, enabling cops to identify the Accord as a 1997 four-door model. It was last seen turning south on Colbert Lane, from Palm Coast Parkway.
The crash left a lot of debris at the scene, including a silver hubcap bearing Honda’s logo, and a front amber turn-signal lens assembly, according to the report.
Two red-light cameras face the intersection. The sheriff’s office–which does not control the cameras: a private company, American Traffic Solutions, does, operating them on behalf of Palm Coast; the city has administrative jurisdiction over the material generated by the cameras–acquired video from ATS.
But the sheriff’s office did not have that part of the evidence in hand when it arrested Souverain: it referred to it, telling Souverain that the crash was “believed to have captured the incident on video,” according to the report. The Sheriff’s Office initially made contact with Souverain’s son at the family’s home. The son said he was not capable of driving a manual transmission, and that his father was at work in Volusia County. When Souverain made it home, the investigating deputy noticed a torn-off driver’s side hubcap on the Honda, and the bumper of the car lying on the front and rear seats of the vehicle.
The investigating deputy was able to match some of the debris he had with the vehicle “exactly.” At that point, and after being told of the electronic cameras, Souverain allegedly acknowledged hitting the Dodge, and that he left the scene because he was afraid of losing his job.
Souverain was arrested in place and charged with leaving the scene of an accident, and released, with a notice to appear.
The arrest is the latest indication of the sheriff’s office stepped-up use of Palm Coast’s traffic cameras, which are increasing from 10 to more than 50, and blanketing all the city’s major and medium intersections. The cameras are not only able to track red-light runners, but to track speed and the simultaneous movement of up to 20 vehicles at any intersection where they are installed, by way of a radar system associated with cameras. Palm Coast’s government says it is not using the cameras to track speed.