In the early morning hours of June 26, 2009, two individuals lost their lives in separate car crashes on I-95 in Brevard. Orlando-based attorney Tony Francis of the Francis Law Firm offers commentary and insight.
Christine Marie Gritz, 32, of Palm Bay, was killed around 4:30 on the morning of June 26, 2009. The driver of the vehicle in which Ms. Gritz was a passenger, Itumus Mitchell, told crash investigators that Gritz reached across him and interfered with his driving, which caused him to lose control of his vehicle. Mitchell swerved into the southbound lane barrier (just south of Fiske Boulevard) causing the vehicle to overturn. Gritz was pronounced dead at the scene. “An interesting question of liability arises here,” said Orlando-based attorney Tony Francis, “Is the driver liable for failing to control his vehicle, even though it was his passenger who apparently caused him to lose control?”
A second crash occurred about two miles north of the first accident scene a short time later according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A tractor-trailer stalled in the traffic back-up from the first accident was slammed into by a second tractor-trailer being operated by Cecil Ray Couch, 63, of Georgia. Couch was killed in the accident, but the driver of the stopped tractor- trailer suffered only minor injuries.
“While you wouldn’t expect to come upon a tractor-trailer stalled in the middle of an interstate highway, a driver has to be alert and is responsible for maintaining control of a vehicle. Mr. Couch might have simply sneezed or took his eye off the scene in front of him for just an instant. Unfortunately, that’s all it takes sometimes to turn the routine of early morning travel into tragedy,” Francis explains.
Traffic was diverted to State Road 520 for 4 ½ hours until lanes were reopened by the Florida Highway Patrol. “I can recall an incident in the same general area where a similar series of accidents diverted traffic for almost eight hours,” Francis recalls.