PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — FHP is on the lookout for a semi-truck driver who investigators say caused a 3-car collision Sunday just after 7:30 p.m. on the Howard Frankland Bridge, injuring 5 people including a road ranger.
FHP says that semi-truck driver tried to get over to avoid the road ranger and a driver he was helping, but merged too late, causing the driver in the lane over to veer into the shoulder and create a 3-car pileup.
It happened in seconds. FHP says 29-year-old Adam Lopez, who works as a road ranger, pulled over to help Sara Lam and her passenger Ngung Thi Nguyen, after they ran out of gas on the Northbound side of the bridge near mile marker 36. All of a sudden, Alvaro Vizcarra's Chevy veered towards them trying to avoid a crash with a semi-truck.
Vizcarra's car struck the road ranger's car, which smashed into Lam's car. The two vehicles he hit burst into flames.
FHP says the semi-truck driver never stopped.
“I am absolutely horrified when I hear it. My skin crawls. I get chills," Nationwide tow truck driver Ginger Darling exclaimed. It's a dangerous situation that she is eerily familiar with.
“We’re busy trying to get your loved one into a safe location and sometimes the loved ones don’t go home. That could be us or the customer,” she said.
Darling is a strong advocate for Florida's "move over" law after losing several friends in similar crashes.
“When you see those lights think of that person on the side of the road as your mother, father or somebody’s loved one. Think about that,” she said with a sigh.
In Florida, drivers are required to move over to the next lane or slow down to 20 miles per hour under the speed limit when passing stopped tow trucks, garbage, utility or emergency vehicles.
Just last month, a driver in Hillsborough county died, and a tow truck driver was injured on the side of I-75 when a driver crashed into them.
Darling hopes these crashes send a strong message about the importance of giving emergency workers room. "You're driving a lethal weapon. Remember that," she added.
Two of the victims in Sunday's crash tell ABC Action News they're still recovering, but grateful to be alive.
If you have any information about who may have been driving the semi-truck, call FHP. Investigators say he or she will likely face charges if they're identified.