JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 61-year-old Jacksonville man is dead after his pickup truck was hit by a Road Ranger early Tuesday morning and then went off the Buckman Bridge, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
The Road Ranger, a 23-year-old Jacksonville man, was not hurt, FHP said.
The cause of the collision, which happened shortly before 3:30 a.m. in the northbound lanes of Interstate 295, is still under investigation, FHP said.
FHP spokesperson Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan told News4JAX that they now believe the pickup truck was moving when it was rear-ended by the Road Ranger’s tow truck. There was damage to the left rear of the pickup truck and damage to the right front of the Road Ranger’s truck. Bryan said the pickup truck impacted the guardrail and then flipped up, striking a light pole before it tumbled over the rail and into the river.
The Florida Department of Transportation released a statement of condolence for the man who died and said it is working with investigators on what caused this crash in the first place. The statement goes on to say, “As with all crashes on the roadway, FDOT will refrain from speaking on the crash itself as it is pending investigation. As a matter of process, FDOT evaluates all crashes that occur on state facilities after the investigation and will take appropriate action at that time.”
FHP said it interviewed the Road Ranger. It is unknown how long he has been a Road Ranger.
The Sky 4 helicopter flew over the scene as crews worked to remove the pickup truck. Around 8:30 a.m., it was hoisted out of the St. Johns River and back onto the bridge. As that all happened, both northbound and southbound traffic on the Buckman Bridge was backed up for miles, and the process took hours to eventually clear. As of midday, traffic appeared to be moving a lot smoother across the bridge.
Unknown number of occupants in vehicle. Two lanes of I-295 northbound will be blocked for some time for recovery purposes. Expect delays. Please seek alternate route. pic.twitter.com/AbBS44GzkM— FHPJacksonville (@FHPJacksonville) February 28, 2023
Roy Skets drives across the Buckman Bride a few times a day for work. News4JAX caught up with him before he went back across the bridge hours after Tuesday’s deadly crash.
We caught up with him before he went back across the bridge – hours after a deadly crash, that sent a truck over the wall, and into the river.
Skets said that when driving on the Buckman, he has to be defensive.
“It feels like a freeway, it’s like Daytona or something. They’re just going too fast, going left and right, no signals, illegal lane changing so on and so forth,” Skets said. “So it’s very dangerous.”
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Judy Rothwell, who drives on the Buckman, also described it as a racetrack. says it’s like a racetrack up there.
“I see the people crossing the bridge all the time. They think they are on a video race or something the way they weave in and out of traffic, and nobody does anything about it,” Rothwell said.
It is not known whether speed was a factor in Tuesday’s crash. A news release from FHP does not mention the speed of either truck.
Skets said he is thinking about the man who died and the man’s family.
“The family is the one that suffers, us that are left behind and the aftermath of it all,” Skets said.
He said he will take his time and be as careful as he can while driving on the Buckman.