Driver dies after collision on Interstate 95

Witness claims first responding officer didn't do enough to help driver

By Adrienne Moore, Stacey Readout - Assistant News Director

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A driver was killed in a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 95 near Airport Road on Tuesday afternoon.

Edwin Thomas, 50, of Middleburg, died in the crash involving three vehicles, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

FHP said Diana Pineiro, 28, was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer south on I-95 in the center lane. Thomas, the driver of a Nissan Titan, was on the entrance ramp from Airport Road to I-95 southbound as a tractor-trailer was heading south in the right lane.

Troopers said shortly before 4 p.m., Pineiro lost control for unknown reasons and crossed the right and entrance ramp lanes. She collided with the Nissan.

Thomas lost control and went into the path of the tanker truck.

Thomas was killed. Pineiro suffered minor injuries. She had two children in the car, ages 4 and 6. They both had minor injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer, James Adams, 53, was not injured.

FHP said charges are pending. All drivers were wearing seat belts, according to FHP.

A witness to the crash told News4Jax on Wednesday that the first responding officer from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office chose to direct traffic instead of attempting to save Thomas' life.

The 23-year-old witness, who asked to be identified only as "Jeff," said Thomas died in his lap after he was pinned between the steering wheel and windshield.

Jeff said Thomas had been eating a sandwich at the time of the crash, and he tried to clear the food stuck in Thomas' throat but couldn't get it all out.

Jeff said he asked the officer for help, but that officer said less than a sentence to him and then turned his attention to the highway, walking away to guide traffic.

"It's unacceptable. He did zero. He didn't even touch the man. He peeked around my shoulder and walked away," Jeff said. "The family needs to know he didn't die alone. Even though he did pass. That people tried. And I feel like the people need to know it wasn't the people that they pay to do it."

Jeff said everyone involved in the crash, including the children, was already out of harm's way, and the cars were off the road when the officer went to direct traffic.

"Traffic coming down the overpass had slowed to a crawl, if not a stop, and they were creeping," Jeff said. "They were doing that without the cop telling them what to do."

News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith, a 26-year police veteran, said it's important to remember there are multiple sides to every story.

"The first priority at an accident scene is to render assistance to the injured based on your level of medical experience," Smith said. "Or do what you can to keep any further injuries from occurring. Say there was a gas leak, or something like that, and that gas could be ignited or cause an explosion or a fire, then you want to do whatever it takes to make sure there is no one around there smoking or block off the area so no one goes into that area. So it really depends on what other things were going on at the time."

News4Jax attempted to contact JSO for a comment about Jeff's complaint against the officer, but we have not heard back yet.

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