ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County Fire Rescue Department recently held its annual awards ceremony, which included a special recognition of two young sisters who were injured in a crash that has prompted efforts to make an intersection safer near Nease High School.
Chief Carl Shank honored Nease High School students Mackenzie and Sydney Felmet for their courage and resilience in the aftermath of a Nov. 7 crash at U.S. 1 and Ray Road.
The Felmets were leaving school and pulling out onto U.S. 1. Their small car was heavily damaged, entrapping both Mackenzie and Sydney.
Multiple SJCFR units responded with quick action and dismantled parts of the car to remove and treat the Felmet sisters before they had to be airlifted to the nearest trauma center.
Those same firefighters and paramedics that came to the teens' aid were also honored for their lifesaving actions at the ceremony.
Months after the crash, Shank presented the Felmets with special medals, saying the sisters have shown tremendous heart and determination as they continue to recover. The sisters and their parents had a chance to meet and thank some of the rescuers who responded to the crash that afternoon.
St. Johns County parents have said that dangerous intersection has worried them for years, and now the Florida Department of Transportation plans to begin putting up a traffic light in April -- a few months earlier than planned.
"In the past couple of years there've been several accidents that have occurred here and the last one culminating with the one that MacKenzie Felmet was in, which was so bad. And it was very life-threatening so now, it's been even more highlighted for parents to be active, to say, 'We need this done,'" said parent Kim Raybuck.
Raybuck told News4Jax on Tuesday that she's always been concerned about her twin daughters, who are seniors at Nease High School, driving through that intersection, but the November crash heightened the anxiety.
"I don't know whether you remember the game 'Frogger,' but 'Frogger,' you have to jump across a river and this is just like that. Your sense of timing is so critical," Raybuck said.
Parents have also expressed concern about speeding in that stretch of U.S. 1. The speed limit is 55 mph, and 45 mph when the school zone hours are in effect.
But that's not the only issue. Raybuck added that because the intersection is at an angle, making it hard to see, and new, young teenage drivers are constantly traveling through it.
She said she hopes the concerns will decrease drastically in August, when FDOT said the traffic light is expected to be up and running.
"I have two graduating this spring. It won't impact me on a personal level, but I will be happy to stop at this light every single time I have to because I know the students who are attending here -- there's 2,400 this year even more will be here next year. They will be safer," Raybuck said.
Earlier this month, FDOT said it ordered poles that cables with the lights will be strung across the intersection. It said ordering poles instead of an arm will get the project done sooner.
FDOT officials still anticipate that the traffic light at U.S.1 and Ray Road will be completed in time for next school year.