William “Billy” Dunson, 34, was at the wheel of his Ford pick-up truck, a white 2003 F150 XL, at 8:55 Sunday evening. With him was 10-year-old Kyle. They were driving north down Avocado Blvd. in Daytona North (also known as the Mondex). The boulevard, is paved until it turns to dirt where it dead-ends against Canal Avenue. There’s a stop sign there.
Canal Avenue is so called because it parallels a canal, or a drainage ditch, some 18 to 20 feet below its shoulder. There’s no guard rail there, no indication of a drop-off except the sparse brush that picks up where the dirt road ends. Dunson isn’t unaware of the layout: he lives in the neighborhood, according to neighbors. For whatever reason, he didn’t stop. There were no signs of breaking or turning. Just straight tire marks on the dirt, going across the canal. The truck literally flew the 30 to 35 feet distance across the canal, smashed against the embankment on the other side, then crashed down in the foot or so of water, mud and weeds.
Jennifer DiEdwardo heard it all. So did her husband Anthony. She was getting ready to rest in her room. He was watching “At Close Range” on television, a 1986 father-son movie (with Christopher Walken playing Sean Penn’s father).
“I was in my room and I heard a crash, then I heard another crash,” Jennifer said. “I came out of my room, and I asked him if he heard it, and he said he heard it, so I grabbed his cell phone and ran out to the end of the driveway and I didn’t see anything, and something told me to walk down toward the canal, and the closer I got to the canal, I seen the tire tracks going straight in, and then the closer I got to the canal I seen the headlights to the truck. They were on. He was about 50 yards behind me and I screamed for him, and he jumped out in there and I called 911.”
“I was right behind her and when she yelled ‘It’s a wreck!,’ ran down there,” Anthony said, describing the scene while the truck was still in the canal, and wreckers hooking it up to a to truck. “The truck was higher up out of the water than what it is right now, so I was able—I jumped down here, went down the side, jumped in the back, and then as I got closer we realized it was a little kid and not a little girl that was yelling, a little boy. He was pinned up. He was actually pinned underneath on the floorboard, kind of bent over the seat with the steering wheel column and the dash on his back, so he was pinned up, and then the male, Billy, he was actually laying across the seat, out like a light.”
“I was trying to talk to the little boy,” Anthony said, “and he was wanting his boy, and when I realized who it was an all, I was telling Jennifer, she went and got our neighbor, and then there’s another guy, John, that lives down here on the next block, who knows them. We were trying to find somebody that they knew could get a hold of the boy’s mom. They live off of Avocado.”
Within minutes of Jennifer’s 911 call, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper was at the scene, as were rescuers. Kyle was taken by ambulance to Halifax Hospital. Dunson was flown there by helicopter after being taken to the landing zone at the Hidden Trails Community Center’s grounds. They did not have life-threatening injuries. FHP investigators at the scene had not determined the cause of the crash beyond the basics: Dunson had failed to stop at the stop sign. Neither the man nor the boy in the truck was wearing a seatbelt.
“Charges are pending,” Lt. Bill Leeper, an FHP spokesman, said early Monday afternoon.
John Boggs, another Canal Avenue resident, said he pulled two people out of the canal after wrecks in the past. “One in front of West Side Baptist Church,” Boggs remembered, “a gentleman that worked at Walmart, Palm Coast, then an old lady, she sat in the water for an hour and 45 minutes on February 16 of 2007.” He said he crawled down in the ditch and pulled her out. “See, that’s what gets me. On Canal Avenue, at the end of these roads, there should be a guard rail. That could have prevented something. That might have prevented something. Maybe not, but I think they should do that because, you know, we can’t see. When you’re driving up here on that side, you can’t see nothing.”
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