By Michael Eng | Managing Editor
It was like I was watching real life in slow motion. I eased my foot off the accelerator as the pickup in front of me began to fishtail. Two other cars were in the lanes to my right — directly in the path of the out-of-control truck.
After my windshield wipers made another pass, the pickup was facing me, then away, then back at me. The truck rotated three full times as it drifted toward the guardrail.
Somehow, the truck missed every car on the highway at that moment, finally coming to rest in the shoulder. I could hear my heart pumping against the seat belt, but I bet it was nothing like what that driver was experiencing in that moment.
It seems the past few weeks were particularly deadly in Plant City and the surrounding area. We can blame the daily thunderstorm or ongoing road construction, but truthfully, most of these crashes can be attributed to driver error.
We hope the following reports will serve as a reminder to take extra care whenever you pull your car onto the road.
• Tractor-trailer crash kills one. One Lakeland man died when a tractor-trailer struck the vehicle in which he was riding July 18, at the intersection of Knights-Griffin Road and State Road 39.
According to Florida Highway Patrol reports, driver Bronson Rodriguez and passenger John Michael Case, both of Lakeland, were traveling south on S.R. 39 in a 1999 Dodge minivan. Rodriguez attempted to make a left turn onto Knights-Griffin Road and drove into the path of the northbound tractor-trailer driven by William Richard Ray Jr. Ray struck the van’s passenger side.
Case, 35, died at the scene. Rodriguez suffered serious injuries and was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Neither were wearing seat belts.
• Gasoline tanker overturns on Interstate 4. Lucius Lawrence, 33, of Winter Garden, fell asleep as he was driving a 2004 Kenworth tractor-trailer towing an Eagle Transport Corporation gasoline trailer at about 5 a.m. July 18, as he was traveling eastbound on I-4 just west of Kathleen Road, in Lakeland. Lawrence lost control of the vehicle and collided with the guardrail. The vehicle, which was filled with 8,700 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, overturned and leaked about 1,100 gallons onto the highway.
Lawrence was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. The spill forced FHP to close eastbound I-4 until 1:30 p.m. July 18.
• Two motorcyclists die in Plant City crash. Two Plant City motorcyclists were killed when their motorcycle collided with a truck July 19, at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and McIntosh Road.
According to the FHP, Brian Rhoades, 35, and Jennifer Jean Rainbolt, 39, were southbound on McIntosh Road on a 2009 Honda motorcycle. They approached a red light at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard but did not stop.
David Colby, driving a 2005 Dodge pickup, was traveling eastbound on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He entered the intersection and collided with the motorcycle.
Rhoades and Rainbolt were pronounced dead at the scene. Colby and a passenger, Karen Raburn, suffered minor injuries.
• Pedestrian dies on I-4. An Orlando man standing on I-4 was struck and killed July 20, near County Line Road.
FHP reported Christopher Warren, 26, was standing in the outside lane of I-4 near County Line Road when he was struck by a 2008 Kenworth T600 driven by Elihu Cabrera, of Brandon. Two additional cars, a 2010 Ford Fusion driven by Damian Rumbough, and a 2012 Ford Focus driven by Linda Hughes, both of Lakeland, also struck Warren’s body. He died at the scene.
• Plant City man dies in Polk City crash. A Plant City motorcyclist died in a crash July 29, near Polk City.
Kyle R. Ammerman, 25, of Plant City, was driving his motorcycle north on State Road 33 when he struck a vehicle entering S.R. 33 from Deen Still Road.