ST JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A crash Sunday night near the intersection of State Road 16 and Murabella Parkway killed an 18-year-old Nease High School graduate and injured five other young people, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Troopers said Griffin Richard Moody, of Ponte Vedra Beach, died. He was one of four teenagers in a Ford Focus that turned left in front of a Nissan Frontier just after 8 p.m. Sunday. The driver of the car, Meghan Theobald, of St. Augustine, and two other 18-year-olds were seriously injured. Two were taken to UF Health Jacksonville and one to Baptist South.
The driver of the Nissan, Weston Power, 20, and his 19-year-old passenger, Tresca Esguerra, were also seriously injured in the crash. They were taken to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine. Both are former St. Augustine High School students.
The three injured teens in the Focus are seniors at Nease High School, according to school officials. Two of them are sisters: Claire and Mary Crean.
Bryce McClure, a student at Nease, knows the Crean sisters well. He said that everyone at the high school has felt the shock of what happened.
"They just always like to laugh and just always got everybody up and moving and just having fun and just make everyone smile," McClure said. "It makes me upset and (it's) unfortunate about how, like, some things happen to some good people. But I know that no matter what, everything's going to be OK."
St. Johns County schools sent a crisis team to Nease on Monday for students or staff who wanted to talk.
"Everyone's trying to stay positive but it's also really depressing just knowing everybody," McClure said. "But it's really good because everybody comes together in school as a family and tries to form this big bond of hope for everybody and stay happy."
One student said classmates gathered around the school's flagpole Monday to honor Moody and the others injured in the crash.
"We're a big community. We all kind of look out for each other," Nease senior Lexi McKenzie said. "Whenever something like this happens, we just kind of stick together."
Students at Nease and surrounding high schools took to social media to offer their condolences, with the Mandarin Mustangs tweeting, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone apart of the Nease family." Bartram Trail's Bear Nation tweeted: "We extend our love to you all."
A GoFundMe page was set up for Claire and Mary Crean, who were transported by air ambulance and face a long recovery process.
Residents who live and commute in the area of the crash told News4Jax that it has become a dangerous intersection because the posted speed limit is 55 mph and growth in the area has led to a lot of cars now getting on and off SR 16 there.
“We had nothing out here, then we had a Publix. Now we’ve got all sorts of businesses, so this is getting very congested right where that accident occurred," Rob Pickett said. "I have a 16-year-old daughter. I’m very concerned about that. I texted her today and said, ‘You know how I’ve taught you about defensive driving? It’s not you. Sometimes it’s someone else. You’ve got to pay attention.'"
Tom Kane lives down the road and also said the intersection is extremely dangerous. The speed limit is between 55 and 60 mph, and Kane said he believes with all the growth the area has seen, the speed limits need to come down and people need to drive cautiously.
“A young man lost his life, and other people are clinging to life right now, and that it possibly could have been prevented is absolutely heartbreaking. And hopefully they do something soon, because I feel it's going to happen again, just a matter of time,” Kane said. “I wasn't really sure the extent of the accident this morning, but I was furious it actually happened. And I know the St. Johns Sheriff's Department did a great job. I know they're probably stretched thin. But they really need to have more patrols out here, more radar out here. Speed traps wherever they want to be.”
911 calls released in crash
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday released the 911 calls made the night of the deadly crash.
Several people called to report the incident, but at least one man stopped to help.
Caller: "Two vehicles. We have people trapped in the car unconscious. We are trying to get the door open. I have one, two people in the back seat unconscious. It's pretty bad."
Dispatcher: "OK. Let me try and get Fire Rescue on the line. Be very careful, OK?"
Caller: "We're very careful. I'm a retired police officer. I'm thinking of pulling this door off here."
Dispatcher: (On the line with Fire Rescue) "This is the crash at 16, Pacetti. The man is saying two people are trapped and unconscious in the back seat."
Caller: "It's east of Pacetti, at the Publix turn-in."
Dispatcher: "At Murabella Parkway?"
Dispatcher: "OK. Is the person breathing?"
Caller: "I got two in the back seat. They are unconscious. I cannot tell if they are breathing now. Their friends are all over them."
Dispatcher: "Are they entrapped in the vehicle?"
Caller: "They are entrapped in the vehicle. It was T-boned."
Dispatcher: "So both doors are ... You can't pull anything out?"
Caller: "You cannot pull anyone out ... I was going to pull it off myself. But you guys should be here pretty quick."