TAMPA - The Florida Highway Patrol says a teenager who dropped her cell phone caused a chain-reaction accident, that lead to another driver's death, on I-75 near the Manatee/Hillsborough county line early Tuesday.
The FHP's report says that Brittany D. Gonzalez, 18, of Seffner, was driving south on I-75 around 1:45AM near mile marked 213, north of Moccasin Wallow Road. She dropped her cell phone and reached to pick it up and lost control of her Ford Expedition, which flipped several times, coming to a rest in the middle southbound lane of the interstate. FHP says Gonzalez got out of the Expedition and went to the shoulder of the interstate, where she attempted to call 911. Meanwhile, James E. Sims Jr., 66, of Stockbridge, GA, was driving southbound on I-75 and could not see the Expedition overturned in the middle lane. Sims's Chevy Suburban hit the Expedition, and he was killed in the accident. Moments later, Angel Pedraja, 37, of Miami, who was also traveling southbound on I-75, saw what he believed to be a person waiving a flashlight, and merged from the right lane into the center lane, colliding with debris from the previous crashes. The tractor-trailed he was driving overturned, blocking the center and outside lanes.
FHP says the crashes caused fluids to leak from the three vehicles, that damaged two lanes of the interstate.
Gonzalez and Pedraja were taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. Traffic homicide investigators are still reviewing information from the accident.
TUESDAY MORNING RECAP:
8:48 -- LARGO: EMS responding to crash on E Bay Dr under US-19
8:26 -- I-75 BRANDON: Northbound traffic is very slow from SR-60 to approaching I-4. Seeing some rain there.
8:12 -- TAMPA - TOWN N COUNTRY: Eastbound Hillsborough Ave crawling from Longboat to Veterans Exwy. Memorial traffic is the usual nightmare.
8:08 -- PASCO: Crash w/roadblock in New Port Richey @ Little Rd/Ridge Rd. Crash w/roadblock in Holiday on US-19 & Bonita Rd.
7:58 -- I-275 TAMPA: Southbound drive time from Bearss to Dale Mabry = 32 minutes.
7:44 -- I-75 FATAL UPDATE: Southbound I-75 is very heavy from Sun City Center to Parrish due to the earlier fatal crash at MM 231. FHP hopes to open all lanes soon. Use US-41 or US-301.
7:42 -- VETERANS EXPRESSWAY drive time southbound from Dale Mabry on-ramp to I-275 = 45 minutes. Crash on SB Memorial partially to blame!
7:41 -- LARGO: Malfunctioning traffic signal @ Belcher & E Bay. Drive with extra caution!
7:17 -- SARASOTA: Crash with roadblock on southbound McIntosh Rd @ Central Sarasota Pkwy.
7:14 -- WESLEY CHAPEL - LUTZ UPDATE: Right lane of eastbound SR-56 blocked approaching the I-75 exit ramp.
7:10 -- WESLEY CHAPEL: Accident on SR-56 & SR-54, west of I-75.
6:47 -- TAMPA ALERT! Crash southbound Memorial near Tampa International Airport already jamming traffic back to Courtney Campbell.
6:36 -- Rain approaching coastal Pinellas & Pasco counties.
6:20 -- I-75 FATAL UPDATE: Slow traffic southbound at the Hillsborough/Manatee county line due to that earlier accident. US-41 and US-301 are delay free.
5:58 -- I-75 FATAL UPDATE: Per photojournalist on scene, crash SB 75 near MM 231 in Manatee involved a semi & 2 SUVs. All overturned. 1 fatality.
5:52 -- I-75 FATAL UPDATE: Southbound 75 traffic gets by crash investigation just south of the Hillsborough/Manatee co line using emergency lane.
5:26 -- NEW PORT RICHEY: Accident on southbound Little Rd approaching Lindy Ln. No roadblock per FHP.
5:13 -- PASCO -- LAND O LAKES: Crash in Concord Station neighborhood- Mentmore Blvd & Dunstable Dr.
4:57 -- I-75 MANATEE CO: FHP investigating a fatal accident that occurred at approximately 1:45 a.m. on southbound I-75 near Buckeye Rd., at the Hillsborough/Manatee county line. Southbound lanes are blocked, but traffic can get by using the median.
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In a permanent traffic pattern change effective May 9, traffic on westbound Enterprise Road can no longer cross over US-19. Motorists can only turn right.