A St. Johns County truck crash has taken the life of a 24-year-old woman, who died when the semi-truck driving behind her on I-95 failed to stop for slowed traffic. Officials say this is the sixth fatality on that stretch of Florida’s I-95 in 10 months. Investigators will now piece together what factors led up to the accident, including investigating whether driver error or mechanical problems caused the truck crash.
Charges Pending in St. Johns County Truck Crash
According to officials, charges are pending in the crash, although investigators are looking into the events that led up to the tragedy. At around 10:25 p.m. on Thursday, April 13, 24-year-old Brittney Fortner, of St. Augustine, was driving her Toyota Corolla on I-95 in Florida south of State Road 207. As her vehicle traveled in the outside southbound lane between two semi-trucks, traffic on the road ahead began to slow down. Although Fortner slowed her vehicle, the semi behind her did not stop, hitting her car and pushing it into the semi-truck in front of her.
Mark Vance Tollet, the 37-year-old driver of the semi that set off the chain reaction, was taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries. Fortner died around 3:00 a.m. in the hospital, with her family around her. The driver of the semi-truck at the front of the chain reaction was not injured.
Victim of Truck Crash Described as Sweet and Loving
Fortner’s family reportedly went to look for her after she didn’t return home from a movie. They found her in the hospital and were able to sit with her before she died. She taught Zumba classes and was about to become a full-time employee at Merrill-Lynch.
“A sweet girl, loving and kind—not a mean bone in her body,” Brittany’s mother, Lou Anne Fortner, said. “(A) happy-go-lucky girl, just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The driver who set off the crash was employed by Courier Express, which released a brief statement about the accident.
“While we are saddened by the loss of Ms. Fortner’s life in yesterday’s tragic accident, this is an ongoing/active investigation and we are not able to comment at this time.”
Meanwhile, traffic was diverted while hazmat crews cleared fuel from the scene. It took until 1:00 p.m. the next day for all lanes of I-95 to be reopened following the crash.
More Than 220 Crashes Along 15-Mile Stretch
According to reports, there have been more than 220 crashes since June 2016 along the 15-mile stretch of I-95 where Fortner’s accident occurred. Among those accidents were six fatalities and 110 injuries.
Meanwhile, from April 2014 to April 2015 there were nine fatal crashes on the I-95 stretch in St. Johns County, making it the site of the most fatal crashes on I-95 in the Northeast Florida region.
Although there have been numerous fatalities on that stretch in recent years, the Florida Department of Transportation told News4Jax that it had not identified any specific danger zones.
Second Florida Truck Accident Only 30 Miles Away
Perhaps highlighting the dangers of the road, at almost the same time the St. Johns County truck crash occurred, another crash happened around 30 miles away. In that case, a 45-year-old truck driver was stuck for more than four hours in the cab of his truck, after he crashed into the tree line on I-95 between the Old Dixie Highway and Stare Road 100 exits.
Scott Alan Breidenstein suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries in the accident and was flown to a hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida. His accident occurred when he changed lanes and lost control of his truck. The truck overturned, crashed into the trees and came to rest with one trailer crushing the top of the truck’s cab. Crews from Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Palm Coast Fire Department worked to free the truck driver from the wreck.
Crashes Highlight Dangers on the Road
The two St. Johns County truck crash incidents highlight the dangers on the road to other drivers. Brittany Fortner was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, as any driver could have been, when her vehicle was hit and pushed into the truck in front of her. With the massive size differences between semi-trucks and passenger vehicles, drivers in smaller vehicles often don’t stand a chance if their vehicle is involved in an accident with a semi-truck. Unfortunately, all it takes is a small mechanical problem or a loss of attention on the part of the truck driver for a split second, for a tragic truck accident to occur. The consequences for drivers involved in a semi-truck accident can be catastrophic.