Manatee County, Florida -- Florida Highway Patrol troopers have reopened all southbound I-75 lanes at the Hillsborough/Manatee County line after a deadly three-vehicle crash early Tuesday morning.
Troopers say around 1:40 a.m., 18-year-old Brittany Gonzalez was driving a 2002 Ford Expedition south on I-75 in the left lane when she dropped her cell phone and reached to pick it up. When she did, she drove onto the inside shoulder and when she over-corrected the SUV flipped several times before coming to a rest in the middle southbound lane.
She was able to get out of the vehicle and called for help. While she was waiting on the outside shoulder, James Sims, Jr. hit the right side of the Expedition. Just after that crash, a semi truck driven by Angel Pedraja saw what he thought was someone waiving a flashlight and moved from the right lane to the middle lane. He then saw debris from the crash and started to brake, but could not stop in time before he hit the left side of Sims' Suburban.
The impact of the third crash caused the Suburban to flip on its side and block the center and outside lane. Fluids also leaked from the vehicles causing damage to the two lanes.
Sims, 66, was killed in the crash. Gonzalez and Pedraja, 37, were taken to Manatee Memorial with minor injuries.