“I’ve been doing this 24 years, and I don’t know how he survived,” said Lt. Kim Montes, a spokeswoman for Florida Highway Patrol.
There were five people in the vehicle at the time, police said. All but one were wearing seat belts.
The crash on Florida’s Turnpike offers a few other object lessons: It shows the value of crash attenuators, those yellow barrels that resemble garbage cans, and other impact-absorbing devices that have appeared on highways over the years. And it shows why drivers should pull over when they become fatigued.
The crash occurred at 7:06 a.m. June 3 on Florida’s Turnpike as a white Cadillac SUV driven by Stephen A. Dos Santos approached the toll booths in the northbound lanes. Santos, 23, of Mississauga, Ontario, never slowed down before hitting the divider.
One of the back seat passengers — identified by police as Marcus Joseph, 25, of Toronto — goes airborne. Police estimate he flew at least 30 feet. Yet the guy not only lived, he didn’t even suffer life-threatening injuries.
“Had he hit the toll booth or had he hit that yellow pylon instead of going in-between, we’d have a different outcome, I think,” Montes said.
Toll collectors and another motorist appear to be in a state of shock — thinking, at least at first, that the crash might have been intentional, police said. One of the toll collectors dialed 911 and stayed on the phone until troopers arrived. Others weren’t sure whether to handle Joseph because of the possibility of severe injury.
The vehicle caught fire, but the remaining passengers scrambled to safety in time.
All the occupants were from Canada, the Florida Highway Patrol accident report says. Montes said that though police don’t know for sure whether the driver fell asleep, they think it’s likely because he doesn’t remember the crash and admitted that he was feeling fatigued. He was cited for careless driving, the police report says.
But Montes said it speaks for itself on the way that the simplest safety device in a vehicle is perhaps its best.
“In this case, everybody else was belted. They all stayed in the car,” she said. “It’s just amazing and miraculous that he was not killed when he was ejected, especially 30 to 40 feet away.”
Forget those commercials with the crash test dummies: If someone wanted to make a powerful public service announcement to demonstrate why wearing a seat belt is important, this is the footage to use.
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