Flagler County first responders were involved in two separate, unrelated crashes in a four-day span, as were two civilians: Austin Chewning, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year, was involved in a crash in the Hammock on Saturday. Firefighters on a tender truck were involved in a crash this morning on Education Way and U.S. 1 in Palm Coast.
In both cases, the cop and the firefighters were responding to active incidents.
This morning’s crash took place minutes before 6 a.m. Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Tender 62 was responding to an active vehicle fire at Thunder Gulch. According to Fire Chief Don Petito, the tender, a tanker truck, “was attempting to make a U turn at Royal Palms and US 1 to get to the entrance to Thunder Gulch,” which is the only way to access Thunder Gulch coming from Bunnell, as there are no cut-throughs.
At that moment, a gray 2011 Dodge Avenger driven by Lynzee Matthews “tried to pass Tender 62 from the left hand turning lane,” Petito said. “The Avenger struck the front bumper of Tender 62 on the driver’s side tearing the bumper from the frame.” Tender 62 had the lights and sirens engaged at the time. The avenger came from behind Tender 62 in the process of making the U turn and was cited by FHP for failing to yield to an emergency vehicles, Petito said.
Petito was incorrect, as a Florida Highway Patrol crash report obtained by FlaglerLive indicated.
A person claiming to be Matthews (and referring to herself as a “correctional officer” when she said her name should be removed from the article) contacted FlaglerLive and said the truck was to blame, not her, but hung up when asked to elaborate.
“We’re going by what the trooper said on scene, by what my guys tell me the trooper said on scene,” Petito later clarified. But he also said that the information about a citation was “from what they told me on scene,” not from FHP’s documented conclusion. FHP could not be reached this evening.
The crash report, obtained on Feb. 21, states explicitly that the fire truck had violated Matthews’s right of way, not the other way around–and Matthews was not cited.
Burney told FHP that the firetruck’s emergency lights and sirens were activated when he attempted to make a U-turn and the collision occurred. Matthews “stated while traveling northbound it appeared [the firetruck] was making a right turn when suddenly [the firetruck] changed path of travel to the left with its emergency lights and sirens activated,” FHP’s report states. Subsequently, Matthews “took evasive actions to the left to avoid a collision when the collision occurred.”
Matthews was transported to AdventHealth Palm Coast in non-emergency mode, for non-life threatening injuries. None of the first responders were injured. Firefighter Paramedic Eric Burney was driving the tender, with Firefighter EMT Nate Webster as a passenger.The crash involving Chewning took place Saturday afternoon. He had just completed a traffic stop on North Ocean Shore Blvd., north of Jungle Hut Road in the Hammock, and was pulled over on the right shoulder of the northbound lane, according to a sheriff’s supervisor’s report.
At about 12:55 p.m., “Chewning observed a traffic infraction on another vehicle traveling south on North Ocean Shore Blvd.,” the report states. Chewning “reentered the roadway to make a U turn to conduct a traffic stop and he did not see the other vehicle traveling north on North Ocean Shore Blvd. The other vehicle struck Deputy Chewning’s patrol vehicle as he was making the U-turn.”
Air bags deployed. Chewning was reported to have facial lacerations at the time of the crash. He was checked out by Rescue 41 on scene and was later transported to AdventHealth. The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the incident.
Sean M. Joyce, 55, of Palm Coast, was at the wheel of the 2002 Ford F350 that collided with Chewning’s 2018 Dodge Challenger. Joyce did not report any injuries, according to the sheriff’s report.
The Ford sustained $2,000 in damages to the right-front fender, bumper and right headlight area, according to the sheriff’s report. Chewning’s agency-issued Dodge Challenger sustained $15,000 in damages to the front bumper, the hood and both fenders. The sheriff’s report categorizes the crash as “preventable” because Chewning “Did not check for oncoming vehicles before entering roadway,” the report states.