RIDGE MANOR — In the predawn darkness Friday, Hernando County firefighters responded to a call about a power pole on fire along State Road 50.
The crew arrived at the burning pole near the Ridge Manor Community Center in time to see the fire cause a transformer to explode, said Hernando County Fire Services Division Chief Kenneth Wannen. The lights in the area went out, casting the rural area into darkness.
About a minute later, Wannen said, a semi trailer heading east on State Road 50 rumbled by. Shortly afterward, firefighters heard the sound of a vehicle collision.
The blown transformer had cut power to the traffic signal at the intersection of S.R. 50 and U.S. 301, about a half mile east of the community center, Wannen said. The darkened signal was a factor in a crash between the semi and an SUV that killed a woman and her adult son, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The SUV carried five family members from South Carolina. An adult and two young children were also injured in the crash.
“It was 3 in the morning in total darkness and it was just a matter of unfortunate timing that they met in that intersection,” Wannen said.
Troopers said the flatbed semi trailer entered the intersection first, headed east on S.R. 50. It got there just before the SUV, which was heading south on U.S. 301, also known in that area as Treiman Boulevard. The SUV struck the back of the trailer and rotated, and two passengers — a 53-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man — were thrown from the vehicle. They both died at the scene of the crash, according to the Highway Patrol.
A 29-year-old woman driving the SUV was seriously injured. Two girls in the SUV, ages 1 and 8, suffered minor injuries. The only ones not wearing seatbelts in the SUV were the two people who were ejected from the vehicle.
Troopers said the SUV driver and the man who was killed are the parents of the children. The woman who was killed was the mother of the man who died. The family is from Moncks Corner, S.C., troopers said.
The semi trailer jackknifed and stopped on the southern shoulder of the road. The driver, a 42-year-old Weeki Wachee man, suffered minor injuries.
The Highway Patrol does not release the names of people involved in crashes due to the agency’s interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution that was meant to protect crime victims but that deprives the public of information long available under Florida’s public records law. The agency withholds the names even when no crime is suspected.