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Third Florida Wrong-Way Crash in Two Months Kills 2 and Injures 14 as 91 Year Old Man Errs

| April 5, 2014

What was left of one of the cars involved in Friday's wrong-way crash on I-75.

What was left of one of the cars involved in Friday’s wrong-way crash on I-75. (FHP)

Ernest Lee Holmes was 91 years old. He had no idea where he was going. At close to midnight Friday, he drove his 1993 Buick Century onto I-75, apparently from Exit 451—doing the wrong way. He drove south in the northbound lanes.

Peter J. Linek, 55, of Ormond Beach, was driving north in his 2013 Ford Expedition. So was Robert J. Bolt, 67, of Niles, Mich, who was driving with his wife Wanda, 70. So was Laura Baugmart, 35, of South Bend, Ind., who had five passengers in her car, four of them ranging in age from 3 to 8. Alvis Gaston, 62, of Locust Grove, Ga. was also driving north, at the wheel of a Greyhound bus. He had 42 passengers aboard.

Around 11:44 p.m., the uneventful drive in the dark of that isolated segment of central-north Florida in Hamilton County, just south of the border with Georgia, went to hell.

Holmes’s Buick collided head-on with Linek’s Ford, killing both men and reducing their cars to a mash of metal. The three other cars just behind Linek subsequently all collided in secondary crashes as the first two cars were still coming to a rest.

When it was over, 13 passengers aboard the Greyhound bus had been taken to local hospitals with minor injuries. The bus began its route in Tampa, making stops in Lakeland, Orlando and Gainesville, before the crash. It was on its way to Atlanta.

None of the other drivers or their passengers were injured, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

Linek was an oral surgeon with a practice in Port Orange.

It is unknown at this time if alcohol is a contributing factor for Holmes or Linek. Alcohol is not suspected to be a contributing factor for the other drivers, all of whom consented to a voluntary blood draw at the scene. The fact that they were asked for blood is not in itself an indication of suspicion: it is routine for the highway patrol to draw blood of all drivers involved in crashes resulting in fatalities or critical injuries, even when the cause of the crash appears clear, as in the case of Holmes driving the wrong way on the Interstate.

It is at least the third wrong-way crash on a Florida Interstate. On Feb. 8, Daniel Lee Morris, 28, of Tampa, the driver of an SUV driving the wrong way on I-275 in Tampa was killed when he plowed into a car carrying four University of South Florida students. All four were killed. (They were Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, of Orlando, Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, and Dammie Yesudhas, 21, of Melbourne, and Imtiyaz Ilias, 20, of Fort Myers.) Two weeks later, just three miles north of the same spot, Chase Kaleb Leveille was killed when he drove the wrong way—going north in the southbound lanes—and struck a truck driven by  Jason D. Lullen, 47, of Wesley Chapel. Lullen was driving with Joe N. Smith, 65, of Tampa. Neither was seriously hurt.

The Greyhound. Click on the image for larger view. (FHP)

The Greyhound. Click on the image for larger view. (FHP)

Peter J. Linek's SUV. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Peter J. Linek’s SUV. Click on the image for larger view. (FHP)

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10 Responses for “Third Florida Wrong-Way Crash in Two Months Kills 2 and Injures 14 as 91 Year Old Man Errs”

  1. Just wondering says:

    Wonder if this section of I-75 would be increased to a 75 mph speed limit, should the pending legislation pass. What a sad story.

  2. A.S.F. says:

    I think a more salient point about this story is the increasing number of incapacitated drivers in our state. Someone probably should have taken this 91 year old man’s keys away and incapacitated his car long before this tragedy happened.

    • Genie says:

      @ A.S.F. – You are right. This could have been prevented. Each of us need to remember that when we are dealing with elderly parents whom we know should not be driving. Tragic.

    • rst says:

      Well said A.S.F.! But, it’s a very touchy subject.

  3. Mike says:

    I had to stop my Father-in-law from driving at 90, he just did not have the skills nor reaction times needed to operate a motor vehicle safely. I am all in for testing of skills after the age of 80, an 85 year old woman just killed a 25 year old biker last week on US 1 by I-95 on the St Johns line. I know people need to drive, but ar what age do we need to start testing their motor skills. Mandatory testing at age 80 every 3 years would seem appropriate, if you can still drive safely than you have nothing to worry about

  4. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately less than a WEEK later …. ALL I had to do was copy n paste… I saw the aftermath of this crash yesterday morning and I am getting VERY tired of reading about these poor motorcycle riders getting KILLED by OLD people WHO SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING. WAY PAST TIME to start MANDATORY testing for anyone OVER 70 to keep their driver’s license NATION WIDE, and have them bear the cost of testing if they don’t want to pay… then GIVE UP YOUR LICENSE and KEYS. These are PREVENTABLE tragedies.!!!!

    MANDATE NATIONAL TESTING OR TAKE THEIR LICENSE. The FAMILY of the old man is as much to blame as the old man himself!!

  5. Billy Bob says:

    There is no indication anyone was speeding. A driver made a fatal mistake, impacting the lives of many others. 5mph one way or the other might likely have made no difference. Not every accident is caused by a speeding driver. Most accidents are caused by mistakes made by one or more drivers.

    If someone is not comfortable driving 75 then they shouldn’t. If their vehicle is not safe enough than they shouldn’t. That’s why there is a left lane and a right lane. The right lane is for drivers who wish to drive under the speed limit, and that is their right. That doesn’t mean others, who are experienced drivers driving safer modern vehicles should be restricted.

    US Department of Transportation study finds only five percent of crashes caused by excessive speed:

    In the UK it’s 3%:

  6. barbie says:

    Would be interesting to observe the actual “off ramps” that all three of these vehicles entered erroneously. Perhaps our on/off ramp directionals, lines, and signage all need updated? Perhaps they’re fading due to usual “time” and “elements” deterioration and they’re not being repainted, repaired or replaced?

    That this is the third event of this nature in two months suggests that something odd is happening. Highway maintenance is going out the window these days, with budget cuts. Hey, it’s something to consider. Alcohol was only involved in one of these, if I’m remembering the other two correctly.

  7. Steve Wolfe says:

    Should I live to be 91 and my capacities are diminished enough to justify withdraw of my driving privilege, what structure will be in place to prevent me from driving? There doesn’t seem to be such a structure in place now. If that cannot be answered then we’d better get to work making wrong-way driving more evident to drivers who need more help recognizing their mistake. Perhaps vehicles should be disabled by spikes on ramps for wrong way approaches before they get into the high-speed lanes.

  8. RobinUblind247 says:

    Whats it going to take before they start testing peoples driving skills and written test all over again at age 65 on , they are killing way too mant people , they renew license by mail and have no business behind the wheel of a car

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