Woman killed in crash that blocked I-95 lanes for 14 hours

Family found 24-year-old Brittany Fortner at hospital before she died

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A Thursday night crash involving two tractor-trailers and a car that killed a Crescent Beach woman backed up southbound traffic on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County more than 14 hours.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 24-year-old Brittany Nicole Fortner died when a big rig behind her failed to notice that traffic was slowing at about 10:25 p.m. and slammed into her Toyota Corolla on I-95 south of State Road 207.

Troopers, St. Johns County deputies and fire rescue crews responded to the crash. All southbound lanes remained closed overnight, with traffic diverted onto SR 207. One southbound lane reopened around 8:45 a.m. and a second lane opened at 11:30 a.m. 

The final, right-hand lane reopened about 1 p.m. after workers cleaned up the wreckage, a fuel related spill and unloaded potentially hazardous waste from one of the trailers so it could be towed away.

Troopers said Fortner's Corolla was going south on I-95 behind a Freightliner tractor-trailer in the outside lane. A second semi was traveling behind Fortner when traffic suddenly slowed. The driver of the second semi didn't slow down and slammed into the back of the Corolla, pushing Fortner's car into the back of the Freightliner's trailer.

Deputies urged drivers in the area to look for alternative routes and to use caution and patience in the area.

Fortner’s parents and brother are mourning her death while troopers continue to investigate the crash.

Fortner's family told News4Jax that when she didn't come home from a movie Thursday night, they went searching and found her at Flagler Hospital after midnight.

"We sat with her for a couple of hours," said Lou Anne Fortner, Brittany's mother.

The family was able to say goodbye before she died about 3 a.m.

"Sad ending, but a sweet girl, loving and kind -- not a mean bone in her body," her mother said. "(A) happy-go-lucky girl, just at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Brittany Fortner was born in Palatka, attended Menendez High School and earned a bachelor's degree from St. Johns River State College. She taught Zumba classes and was working as a temp at Merrill-Lynch, where she was about to become a full-time employee.

Last year the News4Jax I-TEAM uncovered that St. Johns County had the most fatal crashes on I-95 in the Northeast Florida region: Nine between April 2014 to April 2015.

News4Jax records show five fatal crashes in 2016 and one in January of this year.

Despite those numbers, the Florida Department of Transportation said it couldn't find any danger zones based on 2016 crash statistics, the agency's spokesperson Ron Tittle told News4Jax last year.

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Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.