ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A 27-year-old woman died early Friday morning in a crash on I-95 in St. Johns County that involved her car, an SUV and two tractor-trailers. Eight hours later, before the the interstate was cleared from that accident, someone was seriously injured in a second crash a few miles farther south.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Mercedes Britton was taken to Baptist South after the 4:30 a.m. crash in the northbound lanes just past State Road 207, but she died of her injuries. The drivers of the other three vehicles were not injured, according to the FHP's preliminary report.
Troopers were still working on what caused the crash.
All three northbound lanes remained blocked through 1 p.m. Drivers were detoured onto County Road 2017, then up U.S. 1, through St. Augustine, which cased massive backups all morning.
At 11:42 a.m., troopers responded to a crash on I-95 at State Road 206 that involved two vehicles and at least one seriously injured person, who was taken by air ambulance. That crash was cleared in just over an hour.
Friday's fatal crash on I-95 was the second deadly crash in St. Johns County within hours. A Ponte Vedra woman was killed late Thursday night on U.S. 1 at Race Track Road.
More deaths on one of America's deadliest highways
A study by insurance company EverQuote found that I-95 was the fifth-deadliest interstate highway in the United States between 2010 and 2015, averaging nearly one traffic death per mile of I-95.
Friday's predawn deadly crash was the 13th fatal accident on I-95 in St. Johns County since that study was released in 2016.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office attributes increasing number of traffic deaths across the county to drivers speeding and rapid population growth.
The county reports that more than 1,400 drivers move into the area every month.
"There's always a lot of traffic in and out, and it's pretty busy pretty much on any given day you can find a busy spot," driver Kelsey Graham said. "More accidents are caused just from texting and stuff."
EverQuote data study of fatal crashes found that Florida ranks as the second worst for phone use while driving in the nation.
The law banning distracted driving law is currently only a secondary offense in Florida, so drivers cannot be ticketed for it unless you are pulled over for another violation. The Florida Legislature is currently considering changing the law to make it a primary offense.
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Statement of Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin on Arrest of Michael Hand
Massachusetts State Police and police in North Carolina have arrested MICHAEL HAND, now 61, of Troutman, N.C., for the October 1986 homicide of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin of Kingston, Mass. HAND is in custody in North Carolina pending an expected court appearance there tomorrow. Authorities have begun rendition proceedings to bring him back to Massachusetts to be prosecuted for Tracy Gilpin’s... murder.
Tracy’s sister, Colonel Kerry Gilpin, the Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, issues the following statement.
Statement of Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin:
"My family and I would like to thank Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz, the Plymouth County State Police Detective Unit, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, the Kingston and Plymouth Police Departments, police in North Carolina, and all of the investigators who have worked diligently over the last 31 years to solve Tracy’s murder. We are also extremely grateful to the members of the public who have provided information to investigators. For the past three decades, we have remained hopeful that Tracy’s murderer would be identified. The much-welcomed news of an arrest in the case leaves us cautiously optimistic that justice for Tracy is within reach. My thoughts today are not just with my own family, but also with all the families who have lost loved ones to violence. We will continue to work tirelessly to find justice for all murder victims."
—Kerry A. Gilpin
Colonel,Massachusetts State Police
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