Last Updated: 12:49 p.m.
Raymond Almodovar, a Flagler County school bus driver, was killed just before dawn this morning on his way to work after his car struck a guardrail then was struck twice by two different vehicles on I-95, a mile south of State Road 100 in Palm Coast.
The driver of the second vehicle, a Jeep, t-boned Almodovar’s car, pulled over immediately after the collision, got out, looked at the front end of his own car, ignored Almodovar, got back in the Jeep and took off, according to two witnesses. A Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator at the scene said the Jeep’s t-boning of Almodovar is what killed him.
Almodovar, 68, had been driving school buses for the Flagler district since July 2013. His routes this year included students from Flagler Palm Coast High School, Buddy Taylor Middle School and Old Kings Elementary. He lived in Ormond Beach.
The crash took place in the northbound lanes of I-95 just before 6 a.m. It was still pitch black, a light rain was falling. Almodovar was at the wheel of a burgundy Toyota Corolla. It’s not clear what lane he was traveling in. The area of the crash is a long straight stretch of the highway. For reasons unknown at the moment, he lost control of the vehicle, swerved left, and struck the guardrail with great force.
“He hit the guard rail, bounced off, came to rest crossways in the roadway, facing west,” Pete Young, the FHP traffic homicide investigator at the scene, said this morning. “He was blocking both the center lane and the left lane. This Kia, he comes by, he’s in the center lane going northbound, and he sees the guy hit the guardrail and end up in the middle of the road but he tries to avoid him by swerving to the left, and he almost did. But his right front bumper caught the red [Corolla’s] left-front bumper side, and he gets by then pulls off onto the median. Ten seconds later, the Jeep is traveling northbound, he tries to avoid [the Corolla] by swerving at the last minute but he t-bones the [Corolla] that’s still in the roadway crossways, and pushes the [Corolla] back onto the shoulder, facing east. He comes to a controlled stop on the east shoulder.”
That’s when the man got out, apparently to survey the damage on his own car, never checking on either of the other two drivers involved in the crash, then speeds off.
Young described the man as witnesses saw him as a white male, tall, brown hair, brown mustache, wearing reading glasses and a brown-white checkered patterned shirt. Witnesses described the Jeep differently, depending on the witness: some saw it as white or gray or tan, another saw it as red or yellow. One witness thought it was a Jeep Cherokee, another said it was a Renegade. Both saw the driver as thin-built. Young pointed to debris on the road that led him to believe that the vehicle was white-gray. (See the picture of debris.)
John Manuel of Port Orange was driving the Kia that struck the Corolla after the Corolla bounced off the guard rail.
“I was driving along, I saw a red light or something hit the guard rail and spin into the road,” Manuel said at the scene. “All I saw was the red tail-light so I thought it was a motorcycle. I got into the pass lane, but sure enough as soon as I came up on it, he was sitting in the road sideways, but the front end of his car was in the fast lane so I swerved to avoid it and of course got damaged on it. And then about 10 seconds later I look in my rear-view mirror, because I was concerned about the guy in the middle of the road, and a Jeep hit him broadside, I mean hit him, t-boned him bad. And the car spun over onto the side of the road. The Jeep pulled over about 30 yards ahead of me. The driver got out, was a white male, thin-built, went around to the front of his vehicle, then came back around, got in his vehicle, took off.”
Manuel added: “I don’t know what he did in front of his vehicle. The witness that witnessed it would know, he was there, he pulled in behind him.” He described the Jeep as a 2000s-type model, “either red or yellow, definitely had a soft top on it, and it was a two-door.” He said the Jeep “definitely has front end damage because he whacked that car bad.”
Manuel was not hurt.
At first the Palm Coast Fire Police reduced the three northbound lanes to one, then closed the northbound lanes entirely, diverting traffic at Old Dixie Highway, so the investigation could be more thoroughly and safely conducted. The highway re-opened just after 10 a.m.
As that investigation was ongoing, a truck overturned at State Road 100 and U.S. 1 in Bunnell, requiring the response of the St. Johns County hazmat team. That operation is ongoing as well.
Hopefully, if the forensics technicians here in Florida are any good, they should not have any problems identifying the vehicle and owner/driver. He belongs in prison for a long time.
Pat Patterson says
Sad thing is the driver of the Cherokee was not at fault for the crash. He must not have insurance, a driver’s license, or has warrants to cause him to leave the scene. Such a tragic day for the family of the crash victim.
Rick Kang says
Wonder why the Jeep did NOT stay at the accident site? Maybe the Jeep was stolen, or the driver was wanted, or the Jeep was transporting illegal drugs?
Just goes to show how easy it is for witnesses to “see” things differently.
White, gray, red, or yellow Jeep.
So sad for this man’s family.
He is still going to get in trouble for leaving the scene of an accident even though not at fault
COACH D says
I AGREE WITH THE REASONS GIVEN ABOVE !!—IT SHOWS THE TOTAL DISREGARD OUR SOCIETY HAS FOR HUMAN LIFE–WE MUST PRAY FOR MR ALMODOVAR AND HIS FAMILY!!—AND ALSO FOR THE DRIVER OF THE JEEP !!—HOW HOW HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH THAT INSIDE OF YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!!——–COACH D . OLD KINGS SCHOOL
People are such a hole this pos takes off and because he hit him he’s the reason this man lost his life today. Many prayers going out to him and his family
Cindy Almodovar-Schulz says
Fault is a sad thing to discuss right now. He killed a man and did not care. He left the scene of an accident after killing my uncle and did not care to even check on the well being of a human being. THAT is his fault and he will go to prison for it.
Vicki and Brian Nixon says
God bless the victim in the family and friends but this poor innocent man such a tragedy I hope they find who did it.
I agree with P Patterson! There is a reason he didn’t stay at the scene. My heart goes out to Raymond’s family. And this man worked such a thankless job as a bus driver, it’s a shame!
May you RIP Sir! It is sad that this man was left to die by someone who was so thoughtless. I hope they get the person who fled and hold them accountable!
So when will there be a school walk out and march to ban Jeeps
This is a tragic thing for my best friends family. This family just lost there grandmother and mother a few months back. The victim in the crash took care of his mother up till her passing which was in December. He 2 sons live in Oregon and his wife was in Tampa for a meeting. This is a sad day for the family. The person in the Jeep will be found. It’s not easy to run from traffic cameras. Thing is this person it a poor human for leaving.
Or maybe he just didn’t care
Noone followed the jeep?
Maureen Rodgers says
How do you get involved in a motor vehicle incident, check out the accident scene and leave? This is totally unacceptable. I hope they find him. Seems he left enough evidence. Scary that I’m sharing the road with this person.
Flagler Guy says
I tend to agree. There was something else going on with the Jeep driver, maybe drugs, maybe an outstanding warrant, maybe something else. If/when they find him, it shouldn’t take long to figure it out.
So sad for this man and his family and friends.
Really, I am always amazed at people who will use someone else’s tragedy to get thier politaical afrnda met.
This man was my daughter’s bus driver. She has special needs and has difficulty in the past with bus driver’s. Not with Mr. Ray, she ran to to the bus in the morning. He was wonderful with her. His loss will leave a mark on our family. To his family: We are so sorry for your tragic loss. May God bless you and provide comfort in the days ahead.