Last Updated: 4:46 p.m.
Florida Highway Patrol investigators know the intersection at Matanzas Woods Parkway and U.S. 1 for its dangers to traffic, though the lines of sight are unimpeded there in every direction–a mile north, a mile south, and about half a mile on the approach of Matanzas Woods to U.S. 1, from the east. A motorcyclist was airlifted in critical condition less than a year ago at the intersection after an elderly man, making a turn onto U.S. 1 from Matanzas Woods, failed to see the motorcyclist, who slammed into the car.
Wednesday morning, in a nearly-identical wreck, Gary Pearson, a 54-year-old resident of Jacksonville, was killed as he rode his motorcycle when a car pulled out of Matanzas Woods to take U.S. 1, and failed to see the motorcyclist.
Pearson was riding north on U.S. 1 at around 7:40 this morning. The sun had risen, it was a clear morning, traffic was light. Michael Joseph Diedel Jr., a 20-year-old Palm Coast resident, was driving a 1991 Pontiac Firebird east on Matanzas Woods. According to a Florida Highway Patrol investigator, Diedel pulled out to make a left turn south onto U.S. 1, and somehow failed to see the biker riding north.
Pearson applied the brakes hard–a mark was evident near the center of the two northbound lanes–and laid down the bike in a protective maneuver, the investigator said. But he was then run over by the Pontiac: the biker was wearing a helmet. The helmet was at the base of the front-left tire of the Pontiac, which had come to a rest in the median of the four-lane highway, facing toward the south. The helmet had left a an imprint on the pavement in the form of an arc from the point of impact. The victim himself was near the motorcycle, in the middle of the northbound lanes.
Diedel, who was riding with two passengers, at the scene after the crash, was visibly shaken and being comforted by friends or family, and sat in a civilian car as investigators continued their work. The medical examiner had not arrived, so the body of the victim remained on the road, covered in a yellow tarp.
Checking the tinting on the Firebird, the investigator said it was within the legal range. He added that no alcohol was involved regarding Diedel, and that the investigation was still preliminary. It is the first Bike Week-related fatality of 2013 in Flagler County.
Late this afternoon (March 13), the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that there had been another wreck at the same location at 6:50 a.m. “The caller reported seeing the vehicle travelling south on US 1 and then roll over and come to a stop on its side in the median,” a sheriff’s spokesman said.
A member of the Diedel called local media, including FlaglerLive, to report that the emergency cones for that wreck as well as law enforcement officials were at the intersection when the second wreck and the fatality unfolded–and that the earlier scene had interfered with visibility. In other words, the drivers did not have the usual clear lines of sight as the second wreck unfolded, according to the family member.