75ºF

1 dead, 1 critical after box truck hits I-95 overpass, bursts into flames

After fiery crash, several witnesses rush to try to help, put out flames

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One person died and another was critically injured in a vehicle crash and fire Friday afternoon that blocked all lanes of Interstate 95 at Southside Boulevard for several hours, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Just before 3 p.m., troopers said, a northbound 2011 Ryder box truck veered to the right, went off the road, began rotating counter-clockwise across all lanes of I-95 and then struck a guardrail and crashed into the Southside Boulevard overpass.

The truck burst into flames, which consumed the cab, killing the passenger and critically injuring the driver, who was airlifted to UF Jacksonville, troopers said.

IMAGES: Truck hits overpass, catches on fire

Several people who saw the crash happen, including Jonathan Rodriguez, stopped and tried to help. Rodrgiuez told News4Jax that he's still reeling from the traumatic scene -- something he hopes to never see again. 

"Everything was so slow-motion for me. It was happening so fast," he said. "The front end of the truck was smashed in and there was smoke coming everywhere, so you could see the smoke. We tried to pull him out by his arms and got half of his body out."

Witnesses said the man was trapped. Rodriguez and others tried everything they could to put out the flames -- from fire extinguishers to bottled water.

"I tried to do what I can, but I saw the flames under the truck. The diesel was leaking. I tried to warn everybody to back away. There was only so much we could do," Rodriguez said.

As every minute passed, Rodriguez and others realized time was running out. Eventually, witnesses said, they could no longer hear the cries for help coming from the cabin. 

"Everybody was frustrated because there was nothing we could've done. The detectives were really frustrated. I was frustrated. Other people who stopped were frustrated," Rodriguez said. "We tried throwing bottles of water, and nothing worked. Nothing worked."

Troopers continue to investigate why the box truck went off the road. The driver and passenger have not yet been identified. 

Inspectors with the Florida Department of Transportation checked the structural integrity of the overpass. They cleared it as safe, but said it would need some cosmetic repairs.

All lanes of I-95 reopened about 6:30 p.m. 


About the Authors: