This morning’s fatal crash on Cudjoe Key happened in a construction zone

December 5 – A tractor trailer accident early this morning has left the driver of the truck dead.

The incident happened around 4:30 a.m. when a tractor trailer was driving south on US 1 at the 21 mile marker in the construction zone when it rode up on top of jersey barriers and went sideways.

When the truck hit, it burst into flames and the driver lost his life.

Hundreds of gallons of fuel was spilled onto the road.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said, “You’ve heard me complain in the past about this construction zone, that it was unsafe, that someone’s going to get hurt or killed here eventually if they didn’t do something. Well, they didn’t do much and in this case here we did have a fatality, a loss of life. It was poorly lit. There was no streetlights. There were no construction lights set up so someone can see what you’re approaching. There are no electronic sign boards warning somebody what you’re approaching. There’s a pile of metal signs that you would open up like a tripod, which warn you about a construction zone ahead, are sitting on the side of the road in a pile, about 25 feet off the road, not even displayed. So they had access to put some warning signs up. They did not. There was only a couple last minute, Bob’s barricades, three of weren’t even on the road. They were on the shoulder. The other three were starting to warn you about a lane shift, but it was too late and there’s no lights on top of those. The jersey barriers had no reflectors. There’s no flagman here.”

No one was working at the construction site this morning.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This is an AT&T project which has been authorized by FDOT, which is great. It’s got to get done. But there has to be a safe what’s called an MOT, a traffic management plan. And there isn’t. There is no safe traffic management plan and we’ve said this in the past. This is just a drive down the road Free for All and wish you the best of luck. You know this is going to a severe S turn. They’re making you turn quickly in a very narrow lane as you approach oncoming traffic, and they didn’t even reduce the speed limit here. This is not even a construction zone where they reduced the speed limit for safety. They’ve still got a normal 45 mile an hour speed limit right through this unsafe area.”

The fire from the accident was between the shoulder on the south lane and the shoulder on the north lane.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “The fire was completely across all parts of the highway. We’ve got some pictures that are just crazy how bad the fire was. The driver was trapped in there, subsequently died in the fire. The engine is not even in the tractor trailer. It’s come apart.”

The truck was carrying grocery items and the condition of the road could be affected.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “My first goal was to try to move some level of traffic, which is difficult because this is considered a crime scene. So we can’t disturb the crime scene. And there’s not much area to move traffic because the tractor trailer is across both lanes.”

Traffic was eventually moved around the accident and even used parts of a bike path.

Traffic was backed up this morning more than five miles.

Rod Delostrinos, director of Key West Transit, said, “We are definitely a big connector for folks that are in the Middle to the Lower Keys. This morning we had to suspend our Lower Keys shuttle service, but we had people already on the bus. We’re directing the buses to, if they can turn around safely, to go back where they came from, and I think one of the ones that that’s actually heading southbound, we’re going to try to get them to a place where they can use the restroom and maybe get something to eat because the word that we’re getting is this going to take hours before they’ll let these large vehicles go through.”

Some of the buses were already in route this morning when the accident happened.

Delostrinos said, “The sheriff’s department does a great job of trying to keep the traffic flowing. So we’re trying to not add to the already congested situation over there on by the substation.”

Transportation was suspended for a little while this morning.

Delostrinos said, “Because really, so many people depend on us, and we operate until 10pm. We’re not going to call it just yet. We’re going to play by ear. We’ve pushed out or notices through our text system and then we’re going to be putting something out on Facebook through the city’s website, as well here shortly. It’s just we’re really trying to get as much information out that way folks can make a decision and possibly get alternative transportation through the Keys.”

School was also still in session.

Delostrinos said, “That’s definitely a critical thing. Our buses, they’re typically 35 footers on the Lower Key shuttle. It’s difficult to maneuver in tight quarters, and then of course, the weight. We’re going err on the side of caution or take our cues from the MCSO and then we’ll proceed from there. But safety first.”