ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A Florida Highway Patrol cruiser was rear-ended on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County on Wednesday morning, one of two state troopers who had stopped to assist with an earlier accident was injured, and a woman suffered life-threatening injuries, according to FHP.
The crash happened about 7:25 a.m. in the northbound lanes of I-95 between State Roads 16 and 207 as the troopers were in the left emergency lane and had one lane closed. In all, four vehicles were involved.
"While vehicles were attempting to merge or slow down from the original crash, a vehicle traveling northbound on I-95 was unaware and struck the back of a second vehicle," FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan said. "This was described as a white Nissan, which rear-ended the back of a black BMW convertible. At that time, the white Nissan lost control and spun into the back of the investigating trooper's vehicle with a significant impact, and from that impact that patrol car was pushed into a second patrol car that was on the same scene."
The troopers were inside their cruisers when they were hit. The one who was injured, 62-year-old Colise Frazier, was taken to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine in stable condition, with severe back pain and "some numbness in his extremities."
The second trooper, 49-year-old Dennis Shorter, was not hurt and remained at the scene. Jessica Nash, 31, of Palm Coast, who was driving the car that struck the cruiser, was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries. The driver of the other car involved, 39-year-old Oscar Mariano, was not hurt.
Troopers said charges are pending. The road remained partially closed until about noon.
Bryan said this is another example of the importance of the Move Over Law in Florida.
"On multilane highways, to vacate the lane closest to emergency vehicles, not only law enforcement, but fire rescue, utility workers, wreckers, that kind of thing," Bryan said. "Overall, the law is designed to keep everyone safe. Not only officers or emergency personnel, but also the motoring public."
Three law enforcement officers have died this year, including FHP Trooper Chelsea Richards, who was struck and killed in the line of duty on Interstate 75.
"I can't stress enough the importance of the Move Over Law," Bryan said. "This is not only a reminder of that case, but also the issues that law enforcement and emergency personnel face every day."
Deaths like Richards' sparked the push for change to the Move Over Law.
On a two-lane roadway, drivers are required to slow to a speed that is 20 mph less than the posted speed. If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, drivers must slow down to 5 mph.
Drivers on a road with multiple lanes in the same direction must vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle. If they're not able to move over, they must slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed.
Violating the law can result in a fine and points on the driver's license.
Mariano, who was rear-ended in the crash, agrees the law is important.
"It's dangerous," he said. "Luckily, they were both sitting in their cars. A couple minutes before, troopers say they were walking around. They were very lucky not to get hit."