3 Hurt, 2 Critical: Van Dives Into Pond After Striking Matanzas Woods Exit Sign and Tree
FlaglerLive | June 19, 2016
Eleven weeks after it opened, the Matanzas Woods Parkway interchange claimed its first serious traffic victims Sunday morning.
Two people were critically injured and a third had minor injuries after the van they had been traveling in all night on I-95 south struck the Matanzas Woods Parkway exit sign, kept going in a straight line, traced in the soggy grass, struck and uprooted a palm tree of considerable size, then dove into the retention pond. The van was only partly submerged as it came to rest on its flank, on the passenger side, facing north–the opposite direction it had been traveling.
The wreck took place just before 8:30 a.m. It involved three adults, authorities at the scene said. One man was able to get out almost immediately. Two others were entrapped. Fire rescue personnel from the Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue pried out the front windshield and rescued the two passengers, who were conscious but badly hurt. The man who had been able to get himself out refused medical attention. The two others, a man and a woman, were transported by ground to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach, in two separate rescues. The third individual accompanied them. A Florida Highway Patrol investigator at the scene said their identities could not yet be made available. A rescuer described the condition of the two more seriously injured individuals as critical.
The Nissan Rogue’s striking the palm tree caused extensive damage to the front of the van, but it may have prevented individuals from drowning. “People complain about palm trees,” one of the rescuers said, “but if the palm tree wasn’t here, they’d be in the middle of that lake.” The van sustained only minor damage from the large exist sign even as it struck it: the sign is designed to essentially unbolt itself from the base when struck so as to minimize its effects in case of a collision. But it’s not clear why the van veered off the interstate–if its driver had intended to take the exit and miscalculated, if it was the result of a moment’s inattention or if something else had caused it to veer off, such as a collision from another vehicle on the highway, or a malfunction.The metallic blue van was heavily leaden with the luggage of a recent trip: the travelers had been traveling all night, one of them told rescuers, apparently starting from John Kennedy airport in New York, where they’d landed on a flight from Salt Lake City. Rescuers had salvaged several piles of belongings from the van, including an old stamp collection, a coin collection, a rosary and other such belongings, though the majority of the luggage had remained stacked in the van.
The wreck did not impede traffic, though numerous drivers exiting south at the intersection slowed down to look. The Palm Coast Fire Police provided traffic control. (At one point Fire Police Captain Steve Garnes, who kept hearing vehicles strike an object on the interstate, about 25 yards south of where the exit sign had been leveled, walked into the lanes and retrieved a sizable bolt attached to torn metal which, he said, could have posed a danger to motorcyclists. See the image to the right.) Roger’s Towing removed the van at around 10 a.m.
Exit 293, the Matanzas Woods Parkway interchange, formally opened to traffic on March 28.