2 vehicles plunge off bridges in 3 days

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a week in which a truck drove off an overpass, killing the driver, and another driver remains in critical condition after his SUV plunged off the Hart Bridge, people are voicing concerns over the safety of guardrails.

"I went to school and found out that he had taken a crash over this railing and passed away," said Branden Chevrefils, a friend of Joseph Ojeda, 29, the man who died when his pickup truck went off the Clark Road flyover from North Main Street.

"They just saw him go airborne off the road and landed down here under the expressway," Chevrefils said.

Ojeda was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where he died.

Troopers are still investigating what caused Ojeda's pickup to go of overpass..

"I think the problem lies in the barriers that they have up there," Chevrefils said. "They don't look like they can't withstand any large vehicle going at any speed."

The very next day an SUV driven by James Lamphier, 30, flew over the barrier wall of the Hart Bridge a landed more than 30 feet below. Lamphier was transported to the hospital in critical condition.

Witnesses told police he was switching lanes and struck the concrete barrier. Police cited Lamphier for failure to maintain a single lane and synthetic marijuana was found in the SUV.

Over the weekend, an SUV was left dangling from the edge of the same Northside overpass where Ojeda was killed. Police say the driver had medical complications that caused him to crash his vehicle into the 2-foot-high barrier. The driver died at the scene. His wife and daughter were also in the car at the time but unharmed.

While the Florida Department of Transportation the barriers do meet national standards, some people say it's just not enough to ensure our safety.

FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said the barriers are designed to keep vehicles on the roadway, but factors like speeding or certain weather conditions may affect that.

"Our engineers look at the crash data. They'll go and review the fatalities to see if there's any factors involved as far as the design," Tittle said.

Tittle said bridges and overpasses are inspected at least every two to three years to make sure the national safety standards are met. Some drivers are still pushing for the barriers to be raised.