Questions about raising Buckman Bridge barriers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The fatal crash on the Buckman Bridge on Wednesday morning has some questioning the height of the barrier between the highway and the water.

At less than 3 feet tall, some say it's a safety concern and is the reason vehicles like the pickup truck Wednesday continue to plunge over the side and into the water.

It's the fourth time someone has been killed by falling off the bridge during a traffic crash.

"On Oct. 14, 2011, my brother was riding over the Intracoastal Waterway bridge on his bike," said Connie Napieracz. "His bike struck the sidewall three times, and on the third time he fell 100 feet to his death."

Napieracz remembers the day she learned her brother, Bobby Greco, died, falling off the bridge on Atlantic Boulevard. She thinks the barrier on the side of the bridge was too low.

"We have gone to National Highway Safety. We have also gone to the governor, the mayor," Napieracz said. "No one seems to want to help to keep the people of Jacksonville safe at all."

She said hearing of Wednesday's crash is salt in the wound because it might have been prevented if the railings were higher. The Buckman Bridge railings are 2 feet 8 inches tall.

Artesha Toliver, who witnessed the Buckman crash, agrees the rails should be raised.

"I think the guard rails should be safer because it was nothing. That truck went over, just like that," Toliver said.

"It's hard to speculate," said Ron Tittle, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. "I know we've had a few crashes the past few years and unfortunately some incidents where vehicles have gone over the bridge. That's something that has to be looked at in the future."

News4Jax records show that in 1999, two people were killed when their pickup truck was pushed off the bridge by a tractor-trailer. In 2010, a woman drove off the bridge and died after she was cut off by a driver under the influence. In 2012, a man was thrown from an SUV over the rail and survived.

The FDOT said even then, it hasn't changed the height of the barriers.

"This is a concern and I'll write it up myself, write it up as a comment for the public's concern about bridges and things like that with more details and try to provide some information," Tittle said.

Devon Kajy's aunt, Luma Kajy, died in 2010 when her car went off the Buckman. Like Napieracz, he's calling for change.

"We've put in our request to have this looked at," Devon Kajy said. "The city of Jacksonville needs to investigate increasing the height of the ramps. It's 32 inches high, and this is the fourth incident that's happened within the last 10 years."

Napieracz is hoping Wednesday's tragedy will prove there's a problem with local bridges.

"Nothing will bring him back, but there's too many people dying this way," she said. "There's been several people since 2011 that has gone over the side walls, not only on the bridges but other roads, and have passed away the same way. They don't seem to care."

A spokesman for the FDOT said maintenance is planned for the the Buckman Bridge, including repairing potholes, repaving and painting. He did not give a date for that maintenance.

FDOT officials said if you'd like to comment about the height of the guard rails, call their office and let them know your concerns or contact your local lawmakers.

FDOT did change the guard rail height on the Shands Bridge, south of the Buckman, several years ago after two people died going off the bridge. The railings were raised 2 feet as a result.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.