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City Councilman: ‘Ball of sparks’ as car careens off Dames Point Bridge

Jacksonville City Council Al Ferraro called 911 after witnessing crash

He described it as a “ball of sparks.”
He described it as a “ball of sparks.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – He described it as a “ball of sparks.”

A Jacksonville City Council member is among the witnesses to a crash over the weekend on the Dames Point Bridge that sent a car careening off the bridge.

It ended in a dramatic rescue with firefighters pulling the car’s driver to safety from the St. Johns River.

For District 2 City Councilman Al Ferraro and his wife, Saturday night was not another trip.

“Before we got to the bridge, she was saying, how many people have fallen off the bridge?” he recalled. “I was telling her don’t worry about this. It is safe.”

But the conditions at the time were concerning because of heavy rain and thick fog. Moments later, they saw a crash.

“We just saw what looks like a ball of sparks going off to the side,” Ferraro said. “And it went into the water. We had one of the light poles that landed in front of our truck.”

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a speeding vehicle hit a 27-year-old man’s car from behind, causing the 27-year-old’s car to go over the edge of the bridge.

Ferraro said that car appeared to have been lifted over the other vehicle upon impact.

“I always have safety concerns about the bridge,” he said, noting he’s reported debris that piles up.

Ferraro called 911, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department got there within minutes, leading to a rescue in which firefighters used a ladder and ropes to drop down and hoist the 27-year-old man up, pulling him off the roof of his submerged car.

PHOTO GALLERY: Dames Point rescue

“We did not hesitate at all,” JFRD Chief Kris Jolly said on “The Morning Show” at 9 a.m. Tuesday. “We just went straight to work, and we knew what we had to do, and, fortunately, everything went as planned.”

“FHP and JSO already there and they had a throw rope holding him in place for us,” said JFRD Capt. Phillip Orelli, who was the rescuer on the end of the rope. “We looked at each other and we knew what we had to do.”

Several firefighters who took part in the Dames Point Bridge rescue join us on the Morning Show to share their harrowing experience.
Several firefighters who took part in the Dames Point Bridge rescue join us on the Morning Show to share their harrowing experience.

Ferraro said the first responders did such a good job, he’s going to make a resolution at City Council to honor them.

The 27-year-old man has not been identified, but News4Jax has reached out to the Highway Patrol for the crash report and to see whether any charges are being filed against the at-fault driver.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.