Last Updated: 5:15 p.m.
A man was killed and a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy injured this morning in a collision on State Road 100, just west of Bunnell, that also involved a special-needs school bus heading to Indian Trails Middle School.
The victim, Eduardo Luis Pacheco, is 64, according to a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, and is from Bunnell. He was at the wheel of a 1999 Chevrolet van. The sheriff’s deputy is Christopher Lee Crego, 31. He’s been with the sheriff’s office for a year and a half. Crego was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, the Florida Highway Patrol said, which contributed to the extent of his facial lacerations.
There was one 15-year-old girl aboard the bus, along with an aide and the bus driver. None of them was injured, though the bus was struck by some debris from the collision. The student made it to school. Her parents were notified. She was paired up with counselors as soon as she got there.
The bus was heading east. The two other vehicles were heading west. The wreck took place at 6:42 a.m. at the intersection of Black Point Road West (also known as County Road 5) and SR100.
The sheriff’s deputy was responding to a call, with his lights and siren on, when the collision happened. Deputy Steve Williams was also responding to the same call in a separate cruiser. Both were responding to another accident call in the area, according to Flagler County Sheriff’s Senior Commander David O’Brien, who would not comment further.
Sheriff’s spokesman Bob Weber said the call for the first accident–the one Williams and Crego were responding to–came into dispatch at 6:34 a.m. That accident was reported at 12500 West State Road 100. Weber did not have information on the outcome of that crash. There was an unconfirmed report that two sheriff’s deputy units were seen speeding past the Bimini bar area virtually side by side shortly before the crash at Black Point Road.
A Florida Highway Patrol spokesman at the scene said Crego was behind the van, riding up fast, when the van either stopped or maneuvered in such a way that the collision followed. The cruiser rear-ended the van violently. The school bus was not at the exact spot of the collision when it happened, the spokesman said, but was getting near.
Dirt tracks on the road, some 20 to 30 feet from the final resting place of the two vehicles involved in the collision, suggest that one or both vehicles may have swerved off the road and back on in the course of the collision. The deputy’s cruiser ended up facing east, in its final resting place. The van was on its roof. As of 9:15 a.m., Pacheco’s body was still next to the van, covered with a white tarp.
Deputies’ cruisers are equipped with GPS units, but Weber did not know how much data the units could provide. On Flagler County school buses, for example, GPS units provide a slew of data, including the bus’s location and speed at 30-second intervals, information that, in case of accidents, helps reconstruct the circumstances. If that data is available from the cruisers, it’ll be part of the FHP’s investigation.
The school bus’s windshield on the driver’s side was cracked from debris, the district’s transportation director later confirmed, and the left-front tire of the bus sustained a small cut that officials believe was from the wreck. The bus has an on-board camera, and video footage, but from inside the bus only. The footage is being turned over to the highway patrol for possible clues. But the wreck took place more than 20 minutes before sunup. It’s not clear whether there was light enough for the camera to pick up what was taking place, or for the angle to have picked up what was taking place outside.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the driver of the other vehicle and our deputy,” Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre said in a release at noon. Crego is scheduled for surgery this afternoon. He does not face life-threatening injuries. “We wish Deputy Crego a speedy recovery,” Manfre said.
In early afternoon the highway patrol released its first written sum-up of the wreck, though the release did not add new information. It read, in part: “The deputy’s vehicle struck the right rear of the white van. This caused the white van to overturn into the grass shoulder and came to rest on its roof. The deputy’s vehicle came to final rest in the grass shoulder. From the initial impact, debris from the patrol car and van struck the front of the school bus.”
But charges are pending additional investigation. State Road 100’s affected segment was closed for three and a half hours.
Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Bunnell Fire Department responded to the wreck, as did units of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. The Florida Highway Patrol sent several units to investigate. FHP District Commander Cpt. Jerrell Crews was also at the scene, an indication of the sensitivity of case. The Palm Coast Fire Police diverted traffic just past Bimini, onto Black Point Road East, to Black Point Road West.