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Family Livid After FDOT Uproots Roadside Memorial to Tyler Tracy 7 Months After Wreck

| February 10, 2016

tyler tracy wreck memorial us1

Brianna Tracy next to void where the memorial to her late husband, Tyler Tracy, had been earlier today, before contractors for FDOT removed it. Tracy, 21, lost his life there in a wreck in July, 10 weeks after marrying Brianna Tracy. (© FlaglerLive)

Tyler Tracy was just 21 when, driving north on U.S. 1 in his pick-up truck, he lost control—possibly from being cut off by another vehicle—wrecked and was killed. The crash site was just north of the intersection with County Road 304.


Within 24 hours, Tracy’s brother-in-law had created a roadside memorial that came to include a bright-orange cross—Tracy was a Gators fan—planted in the middle of one of Tracy’s truck tires. It was rimmed and garlanded in candles, Tracy’s favorite hat, pictures of his wife and daughter, flower arrangements, a small bottle of Tracy’s favorite cologne (Reaction by Kenneth Cole), his name in blue woodcuts, small flags and other mementos. It wasn’t ostentatious. If it was colorful, it was barely more distracting to drivers than spring blooms. It’s well off the side of the road, in the right-of-way just behind the electric utility line, and parallel to a metal memorial the Florida Department of Transportation planted there as well, as it does to mark the spot of all fatalities on state roads.

Tracy had been married just 10 weeks to his wife Brianna. They had a toddler together. Since the wreck, on the 18th of every month, Brianna has brought her daughter Emerson to the memorial, which Emerson calls “her daddy place.” She brings a balloon every time. “My daughter wants to see daddy, so I bring her here,” Brianna says. Friends and family also have turned the memorial into a pilgrimage site.

Earlier this week a Florida Department of Transportation official was driving from Ormond Beach to Bunnell. He noticed five roadside memorials that were  deemed out of line—“an eyesore,” as Tracy’s memorial was described to Brianna’s mother, Eileen Vitale.

tyler tracy memorial us1

The memorial cross before it was removed. It stood well off the highway, just inside the right-of-way line. Click on the image for larger view. (© Brianna Tracy)

Wednesday, a crew from TME Enterprises, the right-of-way maintenance FDOT contracts for such jobs, removed the memorials, among them the cross, the tire and the rest of the Tracy’s memorial. The crew put all the Tracy mementos in two trash bags. The FDPOT marker was left in place. The bags and the tire ended up in Brianna’s car like a ceremony suddenly muted.

(Tracy’s family at first attributed the removal to Palm Coast road crews, but Cindi Lane, a city spokesperson, said it was the contractor for FDOT. “For memorials like this on City right-of-way, we strive not to disturb them unless they’re creating a safety hazard,” Lane wrote in an email, “and then we try to work with the family to give them the items.” FDOT had made the city aware that “several memorials” were removed along Flagler roads this week.)

Wendy Whitt, a friend of Brianna’s, was driving by when she saw Tracy’s memorial being removed. She stopped and asked the crew what they were doing. “She said the people taking down, you could tell they were upset doing it,” Brianna said, but they’d been told to do it. They gave the possessions to Whitt, who then called Brianna at work, immediately reducing her to tears.

“We’ve been going through so much with Brianna,” her mother said today, referring to the wreck. “Since the day it happened, she’s a different person. She’s still in shock. I feel like every time she turns around she hits a brick wall, and I have to worry that she doesn’t go over the edge.” The uprooting of the memorial today, Vitale said, sent her over the edge, and rendered Vitale herself “livid.”

memorial site FDOT

The memorial site–FDOT left in place its own amrker to Tyler Tracy–was well off the highway and projected virtually no distraction to drivers. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Vitale called the city while her husband sent an email to Mayor Jon Netts, who very quickly was on the phone conducting his own investigation, even though he found out just as quickly that the city was not involved. Palm Coast itself maintains a very accommodating stance with roadside memorials on its own streets absent interference with traffic or right-of-ways. Netts found the decision to remove some memorials while leaving others in place “capricious and arbitrary,” he said in an interview late this afternoon.

“OK, if you’re telling me it’s overly ornate or an eyesore, that’s in the eye of the beholder,” Netts said. “If you’re going to allow the one thing then you should allow the others. If you’re going to take one down, take them all down, if that’s your policy.” But, he added, “for this guy to say he drove up from Ormond to Bunnell and say he saw five that had to be removed, that seems very capricious and arbitrary.”

In mid-afternoon Brianna was at the scrubbed memorial site with her friend Kari Dopp. Neither could make sense of the transportation department’s decision. Other makeshift memorials did indeed remain further north on U.S. 1, untouched, as is the case with a somewhat less elaborate but still free-standing memorial to Deborah Dunn, a cyclist killed in 2013 just south of the intersection with Belle Terre Parkway, and a modest memorial—a white cross—marking the spot of Dustin Irvin’s death in 2014 across from the Atlantis center in Bunnell.

“There’s four from here to the light that haven’t been touched, and I don’t understand why,” Brianna said. “They’re touching his. If they’re taking his, they’re taking all of them down.”

 Deborah Dunn memorial us1

A short distance north of Tyler Tracy’s memorial, another one, to Deborah Dunn, was left intact. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Jessica Ottaviano, a spokesperson for the transportation department in DeLand, was not yet aware of the details of the case when contacted this afternoon but spoke understandably of a family’s grief while noting department policy. “We are not supposed to allow any personal property, that’s why we have the marker that we make for them,” Ottaviano said. She acknowledged that more personalized markers are common, but “when they potentially create a hazard or a safety issue for traveling public or pedestrian we do remove them.” Whether that was the case with the Tracy memorial is not yet clear: Ottaviano was investigating the matter further as of this writing.

The department of transportation has periodically cracked down on makeshift roadside memorials going back many years. In the late 1990s the clampdown gave rise to FDOT’s more standardized markers, at the time a 2-foot-high plastic symbol that quickly drew the ire of civil rights activists because it looked too much like a cross. The marker eventually gave way to its current incarnation, the round, 15-inch aluminum sign panel on a 5-foot pole, inscribed “Drive Safely, In Memory of…” with the name of the crash victim.

Brianna has no intention of accepting the removal. She plans to bring back a memorial in one way or another, and is planning a candle-lighting with her husband’s friends and family on the 18th to show the impact he had on the community (his funeral drew some 800 people, Vitale said). The location of the wreck means more to Brianna than the cemetery because she’d almost immediately heard of the wreck, she lived nearby, and she was at the crash site within moments, even as cops were getting there: that’s what she means when she says it’s the last place she saw Tracy. “I want my cross back,” she says. “I don’t care if it’s going in a tree. It’s going up.”

Netts, too, doesn’t plan on giving up , if only to get clarification about the policy and why it appears arbitrary. “I’m going to pursue it,” Netts said.

“There’s so many other things they should be worried about,” Vitale said. “Not tearing down memorials.”

tyler tracy memorial

Tyler Tracy’s memorial, reduced to piles in trash bags in Brianna Tracy’s car. The contractors had placed the items in the bags. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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42 Responses for “Family Livid After FDOT Uproots Roadside Memorial to Tyler Tracy 7 Months After Wreck”

  1. Outsider says:

    I drive by that memorial every day. It’s not a distraction and if it helps family members cope, put it back up.

  2. confidential says:

    Lack of compassion!
    Sure they do not look like eyesores to me furthermore signify a soothing searching for closeness and remembrance of the beloved one gone too early before us.

  3. Glooby Gloob says:

    Just keep putting the memorial back up. If they remove it again, rinse & repeat. Eventually they’ll get tired of the game.

    One can clearly see from the pictures that the memorial was not distracting, well removed from the road. All roadside memorials like this should stay up until the family is done grieving, however long that takes.

  4. David S says:

    What a bunch of b.s. they have no right to take it down while leaving others untouched.

  5. Brittany says:

    Hasn’t their family been through enough??? How would you feel if your deceased significant others memorial got ripped down? This is so appalling!

  6. Sandy says:

    Who the hell gives anyone the right to tell people where to grieve, you can bet your last dollar if this were my husbands memorial sign it would have already been put back up!! It’s also “unlawful” to throw ashes under a tree, but guess what, people do that all the time. The truth is someone has someone to impress to move up. Shame on y’all!

  7. A Friend says:

    Some people need to let be. I can bet my last dollar that if it was that persons family member they would surely make sure it was NOT to be removed. I’ve seen some around town that are an eye sore. His is off the road an out of the way then some others. This is where his daughter knows is her daddy’s place, how can you be so heartless an remove a child’s dads memorial. So sad….

  8. Sarah U says:

    This is ridiculous! The memorial site is not and “Eyesore”! So they remove Tyler’s but not other!? Put his memorial stuff back up because they had no right taking it down an exspecially not even notifying you or anything!!!

  9. BrandI Prevost says:

    I am so pissed off that you would remove a memorial like that one that his wife and child can go to grieve wtf is wrong with you people I mean really that is a pain you will never know and hope you dont my brother was killed at 23 hit and run all we have is the side of the road and his grave side to hell with that KEEP PUTTING THAT UP GIRL FOR YOU AND THAT BABY eventually they will get the hint dig a huge hole in the ground and whatever you chose to put there make a cement base for us survivors this is how we grieve shame on you for taking that from a family ….let me know if you need help ….sorry for your family’s loss

  10. Lynda Reitz says:

    Shame on the DOT, State and County, Disgusting. Let this family grieve for their loved one their way. How dare you treat this as it doesn’t matter.

  11. Sharon Green says:

    Usually I don’t know who’s memorial it belongs to, BUT it reminds me to pray for peace and understanding fot their families, love ones and their soul.

  12. Barb says:

    If this is all these guys have to do, how about knocking back on their hours and saving me a few tax dollars?

  13. Rachel Lindo says:

    Tyler was dear to my heart. Put it back up!! That’s so messed up.

  14. Jacob says:

    My heart goes out to the Tracy family I agree that was a matter of grieving and dealing with a loved one passing after a car accident road side if they were to tear down my cousin Emily’s I’d be suing and fighting by putting it back up that’s b.s. And they should not be allowed I do t car if it’s bright neon orange it’s a matter of family and in my opinion if I’m driving down the road and I see memorials like that I take the time to sit back and breathe and thank god for all the souls he hasn’t taken and how I wish that none of that would’ve never happened. So I think you should put them back up and keep fighting on

  15. Jane says:

    I don’t think families should be allowed to do this. It’s a hazard to the people being along side the road “grieving” and harmful to the environment. Your littering and quite frankly I don’t want to see trash on the side of the road. Whether it’s clutter from a memorial or a McDonald’s bag.

  16. GoodFella says:

    I also lost a loved one years ago in a horrific traffic accident but I never understood the meaning of putting up a memorial where he got killed? How is that going to help me or anyone else grieve his lose? Or why would I want to remember the spot where he laid down in pain and suffering and took his last breath? This makes no sense to me. As for this little girl wanting to see her daddy, all she has to do is look in the mirror and she will see him. She is his living, breathing part of him that will remain with her forever.

  17. Diana L. says:

    I don’t want to tell anyone how to grieve but I truly don’t understand why people want memorials at the very site their loved one died. I think that I would want a memorial at a happy place, not at a place they died.

  18. steve miller says:

    Take them all down !

  19. Jadobi says:

    The FDOT signs are safety break away signs, meaning, that if there is another crash, the sign post will not withstand the crash. I’ve seen plenty of homemade memorials that could potentially be hazardous in the event of a crash. A 4×4 wooden post fashioned into a cross sticking out of the ground can seriously hurt someone. While its sad that the memorial the families created are taken down, the FDOT ones should be the only approved memorial. They should serve as a reminder to drive carefully, not necessarily a memorial of a loved ones place of death.

  20. tulip says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with someone putting up a little cross or the round marker, as shown, and a small bunch of flowers. I fully understand her grief and that she wants to put a lot of personal things at the site. However, there are too many personal items there, and I am surprised animals and people haven’t come along and strewn them about or taken some of the items, or eventually get ruined by rain and weather.

    If everybody that put up a memorial marker put that many things there, the sides of the road would look like people were dumping their possessions there and leaving them, making the roadsides look junky.

    Perhaps she could replace the marker with some flowers or a balloon instead and make a memorial for herself and family in her back yard or inside her home and where the personal items could be displayed safely and reverently and viewed by those who loved and cared about Tyler.

    I kind of agree with the poster that said she wouldn’t want a marker at the site where the person died, I’d rather remember him/her is happier circumstances and not have my heart torn up every time I rode by and remembered the details.

    My very sincerest condolences to Brianna and her family and she will always have her daughter as a reminder which will help Brianna keep those happy memories they did have together as a family.

  21. r&r says:

    It may have been far enough off the road to be on private property. If that’s the case they should be arresed for trespassing and stealing.

  22. Another says:

    I commute from the Seminole Woods area to Daytona each day for work. I pass more memorials than I’ve bothered to count, and only rarely do I give them a second glance. It’s a good ways off the road, it’s not moving, it doesn’t have the potential to move, so it doesn’t even grab my attention.

    These memorials don’t impact a reasonable driver. We know that people grieve in different ways and these memorials help the family and friends (re:GoodFella and Diana L). There are already rules about keeping these memorials well maintained (re:Jane), so let them be.

  23. Ilene vitale says:

    For you people that are writing negative remarks, walk a day in our shoes, I’m Brianna’s mother, I was Tyler’s mother in law, there is nothing wrong with the memorial site, it was NOT an eye sore, nor was it a distraction to drivers, and if that is where my daughter needs to go to grieve with my granddaughter, then so be it, that is where some ass driver cut him off and killed him. Maybe the state instead of removing his memorial site they should find the truck and the driver that cut him off and killed him,

  24. Barry Hartmann says:

    I truly understand the family during this sad time. However, we all need to obey the laws and play by the rules. If a crash occurred in front of your home would you want this display on your front lawn?

  25. Common Sense says:

    These memorials are eyesores. You grieve for loved ones in your heart and mind not by putting up a bunch of junk where they died. Go out and do something for others and let that be your memorial.

  26. CM says:

    If a crash happened on my front lawn or property and a memorial eased the pain of the grieving family, I would have no objections. What a sad person you must be to have this kind of mindset.

  27. hyper sensitive says:

    I think it’s good to remove any excessive memorials. I understand how this can make family and friends upset considering they lost a loved one, but it’s time to move on. There will always be a marker to remember and you can still visit the spot if you feel compelled.

  28. Ilene vitale says:

    Again to you negative people, if you have nothing good to say, why not keep your negativity to yourself, please stop trying to tell my daughter where to grieve, or how to grieve, there was nothing wrong with her husbands memorial site, it was kept up, clean, and not bothering anyone, really people leave my daughter alone, she has been through and still going through enough!!!!!!!, thank you to the people who wrote the nice comments ,

  29. Anonymous says:

    I lost a daughter in 2005 in a car accident on Haw Creek road and she has a memorial on the side of the road. I know that would break my heart if they took it down. To the person that Dias get over it never lost a child or close one😇. To the person that said when ever the grieving is over. IT NEVER ENDS grieving. God bless all you fools!!!

  30. James w says:

    Although I don’t like tearing memorials down. You people have NO clue of the legalities within “right of way”. If a memorial is knowingly left alone and you go off the road and a cross or debris goes through your windshield, there is a legal right to sue the FDOT contractor who maintains that roadway. I worked on several FDOT roadways and managed them. If an FDOT worker is involved in a crash and there is any ounce of negligence or liability there is not only a lawsuit against the contractor but also the worker. People have gone after employees 401k savings to collect on liability lawsuits. FDOT has laws in place. That’s why you see those small white signs. It is sad but it is the times we live in. FDOT contractors aren’t the lawmakers they only carry out the laws and regulations.

  31. Outsider says:

    Is there really a standard way for people to grieve? Do we have to pick one action from column “A,” one from column “B,” etc.? I don’t think so; my father died three years ago and I still wear one of his t-shirts occasionally. Is this unacceptable??? Do I have to care what others think? Frankly I don’t give a crap. If the young mom and daughter find solace in this memorial then it’s no one else’s business.

  32. Donna c says:

    I’m so sorry for you.I live on 304 and I see this memorial every day,a few times a day. I didn’t know him but I feel for your family every time. I see the love you all had for him. I’m sorry that they would do that.

  33. Kip says:

    The very real possibility is that when memorials are constructed on state funded and maintained roadways the liability falls on the state if another accident was to occur as a result of the memorial. The state would could be found at fault for allowing it, and ultimately be sued. That’s why they have the memorial markers approved by FDOT

  34. Jane says:

    It’s illegal to litter in the state of Florida

  35. Terry Williams says:

    This memorial is near my house and it grieves me each time I pass it.
    So sad for the wife and family and it reminds me to slow down and drive
    safe. Good reminder for those passing by. It has never bothered me and
    I pray the young lady and her young daughter will heal each day. Such a
    tragedy. Sounds like she has some wonderful support. God Bless each
    one of you.

  36. Brianna Tracy says:

    Thank you all for being positive, and sending prayers. This spot means more to me and our daughter then anyone might think, thank you all.

  37. Desiree Arkin says:

    I am Tylers mom and was out of town the past couple of weeks and the first place i went to was my sons cross .. I can not explain the pain i had in my heart to see what happened. Unless u have suffered the same loss we have u really have no idea. My sons cross IS EXTREMLY IMPORTANT to everyone that knew and loved him and my poor daughter-in-law has suffered enough. please for the love of god let her (all of us) have some peace !!!

  38. so sorry says:

    I belive from what I read that they gave the cross back , That’s super cool they didn’t throw it out ,so put the cross up on your own property and remember him there, everytime people complain about this I feel they take away from what matters. Let the man rest in peace already and deal with these mortal problems with grace.

  39. Anonymous says:

    My heart aches for this family. Please give them a little space and the opportunity to grieve.

  40. Government says:

    We the government control the Americans we are not free no more! Just another government official with a power trip. Put it back up. Make it 10 times bigger

  41. Brianna Tracy says:

    It’s back up, put it up on his 7 month.

  42. His cousin! says:

    It’s back up and will NOT go anywhere! Itsnnit litter when your keeping up with it making it look awesome spending as much time as u need there because that’s where he took his last breath . If you have NEVER experienced this you will never understand the pain of losing someone so close!

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