The driver of a semitrailer that plunged off an Interstate 75 overpass onto Fowler Avenue last week was ticketed Tuesday after dash-cam footage showed him using a cellphone just before the accident.
The Zephyrhills man, 49-year-old Samuel R. Colon Jr., was seriously injured but survived the dive onto Fowler Avenue, which occurred around 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 4.
Colon was driving north on I-75 in a 2007 Mack semitrailer hauling recycled materials when another vehicle changed lanes in front of him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Colon swerved to the outside shoulder and the rig collided with a barrier wall, overturned and fell onto Fowler Avenue.
A video camera installed in the dashboard of the semitrailer Colon was driving recorded him steering with one hand while using the other to tap on a smartphone in the moments before the fall. Footage shows Colon looking down at his phone and then quickly grabbing the wheel and swerving as soon as he looks back at the road.
He was issued a citation for using a cellphone while operating a commercial motor vehicle, according to the Highway Patrol. A first offense comes with a $500 fine, a second violation costs $1,000 and subsequent violations cost $2,750, according to the state agency's website.
Photos from the scene show the cab was knocked off the trailer by the impact, landing in the westbound lanes of Fowler Avenue. The trailer landed on a concrete barrier in the median, spilling its load onto the roadway and blocking lanes for several hours. Two motorists heading east on Fowler struck some of the debris, causing damage to their vehicles but no injuries, troopers said.
Colon was taken to Florida Hospital Tampa with serious injuries.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue cleaned up a small fuel spill and officials from the Department of Transportation inspected the overpass bridge for damage.
The driver that caused the chain of events by cutting in front of Colon has not been identified, according to the Highway Patrol. Troopers asked anyone with information about the vehicle to call (813) 631-4020.