The driver of a semitrailer truck involved in a fatal accident that sent a car off Interstate 75 and into the Alafia River early Wednesday has a troubled driving history that includes more than two dozen infractions in the past 10 years.
Wayne Damari Waldon, 30, who was driving an ABC Fine Wine & Spirits truck, also has had his driving license suspended six times, records show.
An applicant's previous driving history cannot disqualify him or her from getting a commercial license, said Lt. Jeff Frost of the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. Only a written test and vehicle skills test are required, he said.
"As long as your current operator's license is valid then you are able to obtain a CDL," he said.
The accident occurred about 2:36 a.m. Wednesday when the semitrailer, southbound on Interstate 75, pulled out to pass a slow-moving BMW and clipped the rear of the car, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The collision caused the semi to overturn on the stretch of I-75 that crosses the Alafia. The car veered off the interstate between the northbound and southbound lanes and plunged into the 5-foot-deep river, killing the driver, James Dylan Proctor, 42, of Parrish, officials said.
Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol said he did not know if citations would be issued. An investigation was ongoing.
A spokeswoman for ABC Fine Wines & Spirits declined to comment on the accident or Waldon's driving record.
Only two of Waldon's 27 infractions, both non-moving violations, applied to his commercial license. His other violations include speeding and driving on a suspended license.
Waldon could not be reached for comment.
Proctor, whose family could not be reached for comment, had four traffic citations since 2010 — three for speeding and one for failing to yield for an emergency vehicle.
Troopers initially blamed the crash on low visibility due to fog, but later said it was clear for more than a mile when the accident occurred. The National Weather Service confirmed the fog most likely wasn't that dense at the time of the crash.
"At that time of day it probably wasn't all that bad," said forecaster Andrew McKaughan.
The truck's load of about 30,000 pounds of alcoholic beverages spilled onto the highway. Waldon was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
The crash caused a massive traffic jam that shut down several miles of southbound I-75 and clogged several other connecting roads. More than 103,000 vehicles travel over that bridge each day, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, but the area doesn't usually attract massive backups.
Officials were concerned about the possibility of fire while the interstate was coated in alcohol. Traffic was diverted to State Road 60 for more than seven hours as crews worked to clear the wreckage and waited for the trailer's contents to evaporate, said David Buser, manager for Infrastructure Corporation of America, which dealt with the cleanup.
Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. You can follow her on Twitter @Colleen_Wright. News researcher John Martin contributed to this report.