Two single-SUV wrecks immobilized two separate parts of Palm Coast in late afternoon today–one on Old Kings Road at Frontier Drive, one in the southern lanes of I-95, five miles north of the Palm Coast Parkway exit. The vehicles were occupied by five people each: a group of teenagers in one case, and a grandmother with four pre-teens in the other. The Frontier Drive wreck involved an electric line that snapped, and possibly a transformer that burst, triggering balls of fire periodically until Florida Power and Light neutralized the line.
All eight wheels on both vehicles ended up off the ground, with more spectacular physical damage to the vehicles than bodily damage to their occupants. In the I-95 wreck, the SUV literally climbed up a couple of trees and stayed upright–in such a way that the trees absorbed and diffused much of the force of the impact, thus lessening injuries. The Suzuki had scraped through the muddied, grassy embankment for about 60 feet after leaving the highway. Both wrecks took place at the tail end of a serious thunderstorm.
The I-95 wreck took place around 5 p.m. According to a Palm Coast resident who was driving south on I-95 at the time (he made a statement to the Florida Highway Patrol, but requested anonymity), the woman at the wheel of the blue Suzuki was driving south rather fast. “I was in the middle lane. She came by pretty quick compared to the rest of us,” the witness said, describing the scene around mile marker 294, some five miles north of the Palm Coast Parkway exit. The Suzuki then made for a left lane, but apparently did so too quickly. “All of a sudden, she lost it,” the witness said, describing the SUV fishtailing in one direction, then another, and crossing all three lanes, from east to west, then swerving into the tree-line. There was no rolling, the witness said.
The witness immediately stopped his car and went to help: there were four children in the vehicle, all ranging in age from 4 to 9. “The kids did appear to be secure,” the witness said, meaning that they were all in their child seats. “I ran up, I could hear them.” He pulled an airbag aside to help one, and pulled out three girls. A plainclothes paramedic also arrived at the scene and advised to leave one young boy, who was pinned, to a paramedics team, which arrived at the scene within minutes of the wreck. (The Palm Coast Fire Department, Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Palm Coast Fire Police were at the scene, as were Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the wreck.)
The boy and the driver were extricated by 5:19 p.m. Fire Flight, the county’s emergency helicopter, was placed on stand-by, but was not needed. Injuries proved relatively minor, a Florida Highway Patrol investigator at the scene said, though the occupants of the vehicle were all taken to Florida Hospital Flagler by ground.
The SUV was reduced to a mass of bent metals, the entire body of the car literally rammed up one or two trees, so that the car was resting either against trunks on its rear bumper. The wheels were all off the ground. The windshield wipers were still on well after the rescue, on intermittent, sweeping away pine branches that had slapped down on the windshield, again and again, as the pine branches kept sweeping back.
I-95 southbound was reduced to two lanes, which backed up traffic just over a mile.
The Old Kings Road-Frontier Drive wreck had taken place less than an hour earlier. The Dodge Ram 2500 was occupied by five teenagers, two of them from Palm Coast (they were identified by one of the people in the car as merely Haley and Amber: the occupant did not know their last names, and by then both Haley and Amber had been taken by ambulance to Florida Hospital Flagler, though they’d both been able to walk and looked to have only minor injuries. The other occupants were from St. Augustine and Clarmont.
A witness who identified herself as Alex said she’d seen the scene almost immediately after the wreck took place. “They got caught in the water that had collected on the side of the road and slipped and lost control,” she said.
The truck was apparently driving south on Old Kings Road when it may have hydroplaned, flipping and hitting the electric pole or transformer on the side of the road, by the entrance to the United Evangelical and Missionary Outreach of Palm Coast, at 99 Old Kings. The truck ended up sideways, on its passenger side, right behind the outreach’s sign, as the electrical problem by the side of the road flared in big balls of fire.
“The city and county should have had personnel there as soon as possible to re-route the vehicles on Frontier Drive instead of letting them get to about 40 feet from the live wire fire and danger,” Steven Jones, a resident who lived just two houses down from the accident scene, said. “About 10 or 15 minutes after the accident the volunteers arrived and did a good job.” The respondents actually included Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Palm Coast Fire Department, along with the Fire Police (all professionals)–including some of the same crews that then ended up at the I-95 wreck.
Old Kings Road was closed for about 45 minutes from Fleetwood Drive to Farnsworth Drive. Saxon’s took the vehicle away after the road was re-opened at about 5 p.m. That’s when the wreck on I-95 took place.