Sheriff’s Deputy and a man pulled over by the Sheriff during a traffic stop were injured in a pre-dawn crash. Orlando-based lawyer Tony Francis of the Francis Law Firm offers some pertinent perspective and commentary.
The Florida Turnpike seems like such a safe road. The toll booths indicate safe passage and slightly below normal traffic loads in a large portion of the state. But early on the morning of July 3, 2009, before the sun came up to shine its light on orange and mango groves and the occasional billboard with its tourist attractions, four cars were involved in a serious accident on the Florida Turnpike.
Crucial actors in this real-life drama were Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Dickens, 23, of Orlando, and Kerry Velasquez, 22, of St. Cloud, whose vehicle had been stopped by Deputy Dickens at mile marker 252 of the southbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike in the stillness just prior to dawn. Velasquez complied with the law enforcement request and pulled his late model Buick over onto the shoulder on the left by the median, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
“That’s significant,” explains attorney Tony Francis, of the Orlando-based Francis Law Firm, “Mr. Velasquez was definitely a law abiding citizen in that he was apparently in full compliance with the officer’s request.”
Dickens’ marked patrol car had all its emergency lights on and was parked in direct alignment behind the Buick.
“You’d think that both pulled over stopped vehicles would be relatively safe from oncoming turnpike traffic,” Francis asserts.
But safety was not in the cards on this wee hour in summer. A Ford Explorer driven by Christopher Schriefer, 32, of Kissimmee, was approaching in the southbound left inside lane and failed to move over as required by Florida law, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. As the Ford SUV approached the scene, Schriefer veered off the road onto the shoulder and struck the rear of Dickens’ patrol car.
The Ford then bounced back into the travel lanes and was sideswiped by a southbound semi-truck traveling in the right lane driven by Arturo Lopez, 55, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
“Mr. Lopez is a prime example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Francis.
At the time of the collision, Deputy Dickens was out of his vehicle conducting his traffic stop and standing beside the driver-side window of the Buick.