Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crashes Prelude to Fourth; Woman Killed on Duval Interstate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crashes Prelude to Fourth; Woman Killed on Duval Interstate

Article excerpt

Byline: Dana Treen, Times-Union staff writer

A fiery Interstate 95 crash that killed one woman in Jacksonville yesterday was a grim prelude to a three-day Fourth of July weekend that promises heavy traffic in Northeast Florida and the rest of the state.

A separate chain-reaction crash involving 11 vehicles in Southeast Georgia yesterday also killed one person, authorities said.

In Jacksonville, the woman, whose identity had not been confirmed by the Florida Highway Patrol, died when a van carrying seven travelers hit her stranded car parked in the emergency lane of I-95 south of Dunn Avenue. The car spun and burst into flames when it was rear-ended at 8:44 a.m. by a Springfield, Mass., motorist.

Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Leeper said the woman had pulled into the emergency lane with a flat tire and was sitting in the passenger side of the car when she was hit from behind. Leeper said the woman is believed to be from Jacksonville. Dental records will be compared to make a positive identification, he said.

The fatality will not be included as a holiday accident in the long weekend that began a minute after midnight this morning and ends 72 hours later at midnight Sunday. Leeper and other law enforcement officials said drivers need to exercise extra caution this weekend.

Leeper said the Highway Patrol is predicting 22 highway deaths in the state during the weekend. Last year, seven people died in a 48-hour period, he said. Nationally, 32.6 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more by motor vehicle, according to the AAA automobile organization.

In Florida, the Highway Patrol will be adding as many as 200 uniformed officers for the long weekend, the Associated Press reported.

Roads will be crammed with those taking advantage of the three-day holiday to see family, watch fireworks displays and travel to theme parks and other events in Florida. Tens of thousands of NASCAR fans are expected at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Many travelers will be streaming in from Georgia, where the Georgia State Patrol is predicting 19 people will die in the three days.

"We've already seen heavier travel this week before we even get to the weekend," said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the State Patrol. "Whenever July Fourth falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you have a holiday weekend where DUI and impaired drivers are your top concern."

In the Georgia crash, a tractor-trailer truck driver was killed and six other people injured yesterday in a series of chain-reaction collisions involving 11 vehicles along a three-mile section of Interstate 95 north of Brunswick.

The accidents began about 1:40 p.m. in the northbound lanes of I-95 near the Georgia 99 overpass. Involved in the crash were five tractor-trailers, four cars and two pickup trucks, said Cpl. …

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