SEBRING — A Highlands County sheriff’s deputy, at 11 a.m. Friday, had a motorcycle “fender-bender” to investigate on U.S. 27 at The Home Depot.
That was until a Dodge Ram 2500 pickup made a left turn into the side of a southbound Chrysler Town & Country minivan, ripping off its driver’s side passenger door and knocking the van into the swale, just south of the Northside Drive entrance to the store.
“I tried to slow down when I saw him coming,” said Penny Walters of Evilla, Indiana, the driver of the minivan.
It wasn’t enough to avoid collision, she said. The truck kept coming.
“This [U.S.] 27 is getting out of hand,” Walters said.
Fortunately, neither Walters, the driver of the truck nor anyone from the motorcycle wreck had serious injuries, or even significant minor injuries.
However, the combined wreck scenes had traffic pinched in both the northbound and southbound lanes until emergency crews could clear debris and law enforcement could clear the scene.
Sheriff’s Office officials said the Florida Highway Patrol was en route from Arcadia to investigate the first wreck, and would likely investigate the second.
As the deputy, West Sebring Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services crews prepared to move their vehicles off U.S. 27, another wreck nearly occurred right behind the deputy, who was parked with lights flashing in the inside northbound lane.
Motorists merging right to go around the motorcycle wreck hit their brakes and nearly collided with each other. Later, after the deputy had gotten to the southbound side and started talking with Walters, horns blared from the U.S. 27 and Thunderbird Road intersection to the south.
At the intersection just north of The Home Depot — U.S. 27 at Bayview Street — the Florida Department of Transportation has erected three circular “Drive Carefully” signs on the southeast corner of the intersection, in memory of people who died there.
Vicki Eck Amos Griffith, 58, and Gertrude Aileene Eck, 81 — both of Breese, Illinois — died of their injuries after a wreck on Feb. 3, 2018 at the intersection. They were passengers in a southbound Chevrolet Venture, and the driver turned left in front of fast-moving northbound traffic.
A northbound Jeep Cherokee in the center lane hit the van in the side and the van tumbled into the northeast corner of the intersection, killing Griffith and seriously injuring Eck, who died later on.
The third marker is for 18-year-old Travis A. Freer, whose car ran into the back of a towed boat on June 30, 2007. Witness accounts suggest Freer may have been distracted, leaning over for something in the car, because he never stopped.