Fort Myers, Fla.(970 WFLA)-On November 5, 2018, Trooper Richard Verbiest stopped his 2016 Florida Highway Patrol Chevrolet SUV with emergency lights activated behind a disabled motorist on the inside paved shoulder of southbound I75 at mile marker 134 in Lee County.
Moments later, a 2012 Mazda, driven by Fernando Xavier Espinoza age 35 of Fort Myers, was traveling southbound on I75 approaching the same location. To avoid slowing traffic, Mr. Espinoza swerved his vehicle into the paved shoulder and struck the guardrail along with the rear portion of the stopped FHP vehicle. The crash resulted in a serious injury to Mr. Espinoza and a non-incapacitating injury to Trooper Verbiest. In addition, the engine of the 2012 Mazda caught on fire.
Trooper Verbiest exited his substantially damaged FHP vehicle, responded to the 2012 Mazda and pulled the damaged driver door open to gain access to Mr. Espinoza. Trooper Verbiest, without regard for his own personal safety, pulled Mr. Espinoza from the Mazda to a safer location.
The trooper’s quick actions in response to an emergency of which he was involved in is a testament to the Florida Highway Patrol motto of Courtesy, Service and Protection.
This crash also serves as a reminder for drivers to remain focused behind the wheel and to follow the Florida move over law which states, when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle on a multiple lane highway, that vehicle must vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle. If traffic congestion prevents a safe lane change, the vehicle is required to reduce speed by 20 mph below the posted speed limit.
Video credit:Florida Highway Patrol