JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax Investigates what led to a fiery crash on Interstate 295 that shut down the Buckman Bridge for hours on Friday morning.
Action News Jax Investigator Emily Turner found one decision could have prevented the whole thing.
The semi-truck parked on the shoulder of the road in the northbound lanes before the bridge didn’t have to be there.
This isn’t to say that driver is at fault, but here is what we uncovered: The semi-truck was disabled after an earlier crash, but we now know the driver declined the original wrecker that showed up to move it.
So it stayed put, legally, but that decision put it in harm’s way.
The earlier crash the semi-truck was involved in happened after midnight between the San Jose Boulevard on ramp and the start of the bridge.
There aren’t many details of how that crash happened yet, but the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said one person in the other vehicle was trapped. That person and one other were hospitalized.
The semi-truck driver involved was fine, but his truck wasn’t, so the Florida Highway Patrol called a tow truck. But when the wrecker showed up, FHP said the driver turned it away, saying he had his own wrecker on the way.
He put one safety triangle out and went to sleep in the cab to wait -- all totally legal, according to FHP.
But almost six hours later, the semi’s wrecker still wasn’t there, but a very sleepy box truck driver was. FHP said he veered into the shoulder and hit the semi-truck and the sleeping driver, causing the fiery crash.
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Thankfully, JFRD said no one was hurt following the second crash.
We have reached out to the company of the driver who ran into that semi-truck and they have not called us back.
We also looked into a safety study the Florida Department of Transportation conducted on the bridge and found the real trouble spots aren’t even on it. The most dangerous areas are actually right before and after the bridge, near the interchanges of San Jose and Roosevelt boulevards.
We pulled the most recent safety study FDOT did on the Buckman, which looked at everything between the on and off ramps on either side. It revealed the area just off the bridge sees more than double the number of crashes on the bridge. Friday, it saw two more.
The study did make several recommendations for safety. Only two of the four are being put into place. The first added friction coating to the interchanges. The other is a $10.5 million project for overhead electronic message boards and additional cameras that FDOT said should be completed this winter.
The state also narrowed lanes on the bridge so it could widen the shoulder for disabled drivers. But even a wider shoulder and more signage couldn’t have prevented Friday morning’s crash, as the box truck driver that hit the back of the semi was experiencing fatigue.