HIGHLAND CITY — A Lakeland woman died Friday morning following a crash on U.S. 98 South that clogged traffic for hours.
Authorities said the accident, which happened about 10 a.m., occurred when two cars travelling in opposite directions collided.
By the time medics arrived on the scene, Stacy Leigh Dewey, 41, had died. The final minutes of her life were witnessed by her 17-year-old son and a handful of onlookers, who watched with their hands to their mouths.
Polk County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Stephanie Mier said Dewey and her son, Robert H. Dewey III, were driving south toward Bartow in a black 2003 Ford Mustang when the crash occurred. On the other side of the highway, traveling north in a silver 2002 Acura SUV, Jeny Idiculla, 27, of Winter Haven, lost control of her car and veered toward the median, authorities said.
The Acura smashed into the Mustang at an angle, and scraped down the side of the car, sending both vehicles spiraling across the southbound lanes. Both came to a halt near the shoulder of the road, at the intersection of U.S. 98 and Hancock Avenue SE.
In their wake, the vehicles left a scene strewn with car parts. The make of the Mustang, crushed badly, was barely recognizable.
In her office at State Farm near the crash site, Lee Wylie said she heard a loud bang. The commotion stirred her fellow employees and neighbors to the scene, where they watched as Robert Dewey crawled from the back window of the Mustang with minor injuries.
"I guess the boy went to the other car," Wylie said, noting that Dewey checked on Idiculla, who is eight months pregnant and was pinned by the steering wheel of the SUV.
Wylie said her boss, former nurse and State Farm agent Joy Morse, rushed to the road to help provide medical assistance. But it was too late for Stacy Dewey. Wylie said Robert Dewey became fraught with emotion when he realized his mother was slipping away.
When medics arrived, they pronounced Stacy Dewey dead. After being cut from her vehicle by authorities, Idiculla was taken by ambulance to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. She was listed in stable condition.
Mier said Idiculla was wearing her seat belt at the time. It remained unclear whether Stacy and Robert Dewey were wearing theirs, she said. Investigators do not suspect either driver was impaired at the time of the crash.
Just feet away from the mangled Mustang, ribbons from a decorated crash memorial tossed in the misty wind, a reminder of the history of the intersection. Some bystanders at the scene blamed the 50 mph speed limit as well as the absence of traffic lights.
The crash kept deputies on the scene for hours, and backed up traffic for more than a mile. The roadway was closed until about 3:30 p.m., authorities said. Miers said the cause of the crash remains under investigation. No charges have been filed.