Driver who crossed into oncoming lanes of I-295 at Merrill Road killed in crash

Chain reaction crash kills one, injures at least two others

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office cruiser was one of the vehicles involved in the crash.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office cruiser was one of the vehicles involved in the crash.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One person died and two others were seriously injured in a chain-reaction crash near the base of the Dames Point Bridge early Wednesday morning that blocked I-295 southbound at Merrill Road for hours.

A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SUV was one of four vehicles involved, but News4Jax was told that the officer, Eric Kilis, will recover from his injuries.

The crash happened sometime before 7 a.m. when a vehicle that was going northbound crossed into the southbound lanes of traffic coming off the bridge and struck three vehicles. JSO said the driver who crossed into oncoming traffic was the person who died. That driver’s name has not been released.

A woman who only gave her name as Bethany was headed to work when she drove by the crash minutes after it happened.

“There were a couple cars stopped and people were trying to help and there were a group of people around the car that was standing up on its side," she told News4Jax. “They were looking into the car and I was like ‘They didn’t know what to do.’ They didn’t know how to help.”

Bethany said she often sees cars speeding and weaving through traffic in that area.

“The point where they were, like, a foot or two feet apart from other cars," she said.

Police are still investigating what caused the car to cross the median.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said there’s a variety of factors investigators will consider.

“It could’ve been a medical issue. It could’ve been a distracted driver (who), for whatever reason, could have lost control of the vehicle and veered into the median and went into the other lane," Jefferson said. “We’ve had some very bad weather the last few days that could’ve been a contributing factor to this incident.”

For much of the morning, southbound travelers about to cross the Dames Point Bridge onto Heckscher Drive until I-295 reopened.

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