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Second car plunges off Howard Frankland Bridge in three weeks

Drivers wonder if barriers need to be taller
Posted at 9:10 AM, Sep 18, 2019

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A steering failure caused a car to crash off the Howard Frankland Bridge and into the water Wednesday morning.

The Florida Highway Patrol said a mechanical issue caused the steering to fail in the 2003 Ford sedan 24-year-old Dennis Verboczki was driving SB on the Howard Franklnad bridge in St. Petersburg. He crashed through a chain link fence barrier and into the water. He was able to escape and is expected to be okay.

It's the second time in three weeks that a driver plunged into the waters off the Howard Frankland Bridge.

On August 28, a man died when he got into a crash and flipped his car several times, landing in the water. His body was found the next day.

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Verboczki was ticketed for driving while his license was suspended.

The idea of two cars plunging into the bay makes frequent Howard Frankland drivers nervous.

Phelix Robinson says his daughter drives over the bridge daily.

“Ah," he exclaimed. "I cringe when I think about it.”

Stephen williams often drives a semi-truck over the bridge.

“Especially in a big truck, you look at the little wall and you’re like hey, I could go right over the side," he added.

The concrete barricades along the Howard Frankland are 32 inches tall, which FDOT says was the recommended height for bridges when it was built in 1990. Since then, the state has increased height standards by six inches. Closer to the end of the bridge in St. Pete and Tampa, the barrier switches to a chain link fence.

“A car moving at 20 to 30 miles an hour is going to go right through that line butter,” Travis Conlan said.

FDOT leaders tell ABC Action News once they finish construction on the new Howard Frankland Bridge, the concrete barriers will be 10 inches taller. Yet, parts of the chain link fence will stay. That's a concern for Conlan and thousands of drivers who use the bridge every day.

“It just takes one person to make a mistake or your car to fail so it’s pretty scary, hopefully they do something to make it safer for everybody on the road,” Conlan elaborated.

Construction on new Howard Frankland Bridge is expected to begin early next year and take about four years to complete.