Truck driver arrested after woman dies in car knocked off US 17

Troopers say semi driver kept driving until stopped by Clay County deputy

By Zachery Lashway - Reporter/anchor, Ashley Harding - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. - A 50-year-old woman was killed Friday morning in a hit-and-run crash on Highway 17 in Fleming Island and the driver of the tractor-trailer that struck her car was arrested, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers said Maria Ocasio, of Jacksonville, was driving south in the right lane about 7:15 a.m. near Westover Road when a tractor-trailer attempted to move into her lane. The trailer of the semi struck her car and sent it off the highway and over the grass median, where it struck a support pole of a pedestrian walkway that is part of the Black Creek Trail system. She died at the scene.

Truck driver Johnny Gratta, 68, of Baldwin, continued heading south on Highway 17 until he was pulled over by a Clay County deputy who had witnessed the crash, stopped to attempt to render aid, then jumped back into his patrol car to catch up to the tractor-trailer.

Troopers said Gratta was cooperating with the investigation. He was charged with leaving the scene of a crash resulting in a fatality. 

“You know, driving a large commercial motor vehicle, depending on the type of impact, it is a possibility that the driver didn’t even know that the two vehicles had touched or collided. Very large vehicle versus a smaller vehicle -- sometimes, it’s very hard to determine," FHP's Sgt. Dylan Bryan said. 

All southbound lanes of Highway 17 were blocked at Westover Road for about four hours. 

Clay County officials said a piling was dislodged on the Black Creek Trail bridge from the impact of the car. Crews will need to raise the bridge and push the piling back into place before the bridge can reopen to pedestrians.

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