Fatal wreck shows high risks for ‘good Samaritans’ on Florida’s highways

Helping people was part of Marcasia Crenshaw’s DNA, according to family and friends. It ended up costing the 25-year-old Boynton Beach mother her life Sunday night.

Crenshaw was traveling southbound on Interstate 95 near Titusville when she came upon a disabled van stranded in a travel lane and got out to help. A Chevy pickup swerved once to avoid the van and then again to avoid a crash. It struck Crenshaw as she desperately ran toward the interstate’s grass median. She died at the scene.

“Anybody should be applauded for wanting to help somebody,” said Sgt. Mark Wysocky, FHP spokesman. “They just want to help, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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But much can go wrong when a “good Samaritan” motorist, as FHP called Crenshaw, gets out of their vehicle to assist another on a super-fast highway, especially at night. Even seasoned troopers who first run through a list of precautions are susceptible.

Trooper Any Ong, 51, was working speed enforcement on I-95 in Lantana on Oct. 1 when he was seriously injured after two vehicles collided and one struck him. Ong spent more than six weeks at Delray Medical Center, undergoing several surgeries, before being released Friday.

“You just have to be careful, but even being careful is no certainty that something may not happen,” Wysocky said. “It only takes one driver who isn’t paying attention or focused on something else for a tragedy to take place.”

A spokesman for the American Automobile Association said motorists should pull over to the roadway’s shoulder before taking further action. If a stranded vehicle is in the roadway, calling 911 may be the best approach.

“Good Samaritans should always put safety first when considering helping a stranded motorist,” spokesman John Pecchio said.

Motorists who stop to help others, particularly at night, should use flashlights, interior car lights, reflecting cones or anything else “to help increase visibility,” Wysocky said. If there is a second person in the vehicle, that person should serve as a lookout while the first person assists.

There are no statistics available that accurately show the number of people either killed or injured in such incidents. Crenshaw, for instance, was considered a pedestrian, and her death will be counted in state records that way.

While crashes involving people walking on highways are rare, they are often fatal.

Arnold Mettulus, a 59-year-old Road Ranger, was killed Oct. 26, 2014, after he was struck in a hit-and-run crash while standing by the driver’s side door of a disabled vehicle on northbound I-95, near Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton. More than three years later, no arrest has been made in the case.

The state’s Move Over law requires motorists either to move over a lane or slow to a speed 20 mph less that the posted speed limit for stopped law enforcement, emergency, sanitation, utility service vehicles and tow trucks.

The typical driver, even a good Samaritan like Crenshaw, is not covered under the Move Over law, further increasing the level of difficulty of coming to the aid of a stranded motorist.

“Our troopers are out there with reflective vests, cones and flashing lights and things still happen,” Wysocky said. “The thing is to be as careful as possible, but then everybody might be doing everything right and something tragic like this still happens.”

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