A man is dead and three others are seriously hurt after a violent wrong-way crash on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County early Thursday morning.
It happened just after midnight on I-95 in between U.S. 1 and State Road 206, just north of the Flagler County line, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol.
It was the latest of several head-on crashes caused by someone going the wrong way on the interstate.
Troopers report the driver, 47, was going north in the southbound lanes when he collided with an SU. I-95 was shut down around Mile Marker 300 with rescue crews working for hours; reopening before 6 a.m.
Paramedics airlifted at least one to the hospital. The man who died was the passenger in a sedan that state troopers believe was going the wrong way. The driver and three others, including the 36-year-old woman driving the SUV the correct way, were seriously hurt.
Troopers haven’t said if drugs or alcohol were involved.
It’s unclear where the at-fault driver got onto the wrong side of the road, but the exits nearby have large, red and white signs that say, “Wrong Way.” While they don’t light up at night, headlights do reflect off them.
“Nobody, nobody needs to go through that,” said Ashley Beale Galbraith, a Jacksonville resident who lost her father in a similar crash.
Wallace “Wally” Beale was killed by a wrong-way driver on I-295 in Jacksonville nearly five years ago as he was driving home from work. The crash happened on Jan. 4, 2016. He died four days later.
“A lot of times the wrong-way drivers are intoxicated or something,” she said. “At least in our case, it was for sure. These things can be prevented. There’s so many other options people have then getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.”
The man behind the wheel in Beale’s crash pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in 2017 and is serving a 7½ year prison sentence.
News4Jax records show dozens of people have been killed in wrong way crashes in Northeast Florida.
This includes a passenger in a pickup truck last Saturday on State Road 207. Two unborn babies also died, according to an FHP report.
Galbraith knows the families of the victims in each of these crashes must be devastated.
“I’ve been praying that the Lord protects innocent people from being affected like we were,” she said.
As we ring in a New Year, Galbraith urges people to be responsible and stay safe. She said people need to use this as a sad reminder to never drink and drive, to stay alert and, if possible, stay off the roadways on New Year’s Eve.