Fatal accident snarls I-75 traffic for hours in northern Manatee

ejohnson@bradenton.comNovember 7, 2012 

MANATEE -- Two southbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Manatee County were closed most of Tuesday following a fatal traffic accident involving three vehicles.

Road crews were repairing the right and center southbound lanes in the vicinity of Buckeye and Moccasin Wallow roads shortly after the 1:41 a.m. accident, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The lanes were not reopen until 6:14 p.m., according to the FHP.

Traffic was snarled most of the day.

An 18-year-old Seffner woman was driving southbound when she dropped her cell phone and reached to pick it up, according to an incident report. Her 2002 Ford Expedition entered the inside shoulder. The driver overcorrected and the vehicle overturned several times, coming to rest in the middle southbound lane, the Highway Patrol reported.

She exited the Expedition and attempted to call 911. The driver of a second vehicle, a 2002 Chevy Suburban, could not see the overturned Expedition in the roadway, and plowed into it, leaving two vehicles disabled on the interstate.

The driver of third vehicle, a 2001 truck, saw what he thought was a person waving a flashlight and moved from the right lane into the middle lane. The driver of the third truck then began to see crash debris and tried to brake, but was unable to avoid the crash scene and struck the Suburban.

The third truck overturned, blocking the center and outside lanes. Fluids from all three vehicles leaked onto the road, damaging two lanes. Among those fluids was approximately 30 gallons of diesel, said Lt. Chris Miller Tuesday morning.

"The diesel will eat up the asphalt," Miller said. "The pavement needs to be patched up."

The driver of the Suburban, James E. Sims, 66, of Stockbridge, Ga., died in the crash.

The Seffner woman, and the driver of the third vehicle, a Miami resident, were taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The accident is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

"Due to the fact there was a fatality involved, it could take up to 60 days," Miller said.

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