Witness claims first responding officer didn't do enough to help driver
Pileup witness claims officer neglected injured victim
THE NUMBER 1-866-845-TIPS. AN UPDATE TO THIS DEADLY CRASH WE FIRST TOLD YOU ABOUT AS BREAKING NEWS LAST NIGHT. FOR THE FIRST TIME WE'RE HEARING FROM ONE OF THE WITNESSES TO THE THREE-CAR PILEUP WHO SAYS A 50-YEAR-OLD MAN DIED IN HIS ARMS WHILE HE CLAIMS THE JACKSONVILLE POLICE OFFICER DID NOTHING TO HELP. HE DID ZERO. HE DIDN'T EVEN TOUCH THE MAN. LIKE, HE PEEKED AROUND THE CORNER OVER MY SHOULDER AND WALKED AWAY. THE CRASH HAPPENED JUST BEFORE RUSH-HOUR ON THE SOUTHBOUND SIDE OF I-95 AND AIRPORT ROAD ON JACKSONVILLE'S NORTH SIDE. ED WITHIN THOMAS DIED AT THE SCENE. THAT IS WHERE ADRIENNE MOORE IS JOINING US LIFE WITH WHY THE WITNESS SAID THE FIRST RESPONDING OFFICER DIDN'T DO ENOUGH TO SAFE THOMAS. Reporter: JOY, THIS WITNESS SAYS THIS OFFICER DIDN'T HAVE HIS PRIORITIES IN ORDER, AND CHOOSE TO DIRECT TRAFFIC HERE ALONG I-95 INSTEAD OF TRYING TO SAVE THE LIFE OF ED WITHIN THOMAS. NOW TONIGHT, WE DID CATCH UP WITH THE CRIME AND SAFETY EXPERT TO GO OVER THE PROTOCOLS OFFICERS ARE SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW AT A CRASH SITE LIKE THIS. THE FAMILY NEEDS TO KNOW THAT THAT HE DIDN'T DIE ALONE. THAT PEOPLE TRY AND I FEEL LIKE THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THAT IT WASN'T THE PEOPLE THEY PAY TO DO THIS. THIS 23-YEAR-OLD WITNESS IS CALLING FOR JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF'S OFFICER TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE CLAIMING HE PUT TRAFFIC CONTROL AHEAD OF A MAN'S LIFE. WHEN THE OFFICER CAME OUT WHAT DID HE TELL YOU AND WHAT WAS HIS INTERACTION WITH -- HIS INTERACTION WAS SO SHORT AND SWEET THAT I COULDN'T EVEN TELL YOU WHAT HE SAID BECAUSE IT WAS LESS THAN A FULL SENTENCE. AND HE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY TURNED HIS ATTENTION BACK TO THE HIGHWAY WALKING AWAY TO GUIDE TRAFFIC. Reporter: DO YOU THINK IT'S POSSIBLE THAT THE OFFICER COULD HAVE SEEN THE TRAFFIC ISSUE -- A BIGGER THREAT? A BIGGER THREAT AND ALSO POTENTIALLY SAVING MORE LIVES BY CLEARING THE TRAFFIC ISSUE WHEN HE SAW YOU WERE TENDING TO THE MAN? WE MOVED EVERYBODY OUT OF HARM'S WAY AND TRAFFIC COMING DOWN THE OVERPASS HAD SLOWED TO A CRAWL IF NOT A STOP AND THEY WERE' CREEPING, LIKE. THEY WERE' DOING THAT WITHOUT THE COP TELLING THEM WHAT TO DO. Reporter: JEFF SAYS 50-YEAR-OLD ED WITHIN THOMAS DIED IN LAP AFTER HE WAS PINNED BETWEEN THE STEERING WHEEL AND WIND SHIELD AFTER A CRASH ON I-95. WE DON'T KNOW IF THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED. TWO SIDES, SOMETIMES 3 OR 4 SIDES TO EVERY STORY. Reporter: GIL SMITH IS A 26 YEAR POLICE VETERAN. HE EXPLAINS WHAT IS PRIORITY NUMBER ONE AT A CRASH SITE. THE FIRST THING IS TO RENDER ASSISTANCE TO INJURED PEOPLE OR DO WHAT YOU CAN TO KEEP ANY FURTHER INJURIES FROM OCCURRING SO IT DEPENDS ON WHAT OTHER THINGS WERE GOING ON AT THE TIME. Reporter: JEFF ALSO TELLS US THAT HE THINKS THAT ED WINN THOMAS WAS EATING A SANDWICH. WHEN HE FIRST CAME UP ON THE SCENE HE NOTICED THAT ED WINN LOOKED LIKE HE WAS CHOKING ON SOMETHING AND ACTUALLY GRABBED A GLOVE AND TRIED TO CLEAR HIS THROAT BUT WASN'T ABLE TO GET ALL OF WHATEVER HE HAD IN HIS MOUTH OUT. WE DID REACH OUT TO THE JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF'S OFFICE FOR COMMENT ON TONIGHT'S STORY BUT WE HAVEN'T HEARD BACK. ADRIENNE MOORE, CHANNEL 4, THE LOCAL STATIONS. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE LIFE OF MR. THOMAS. Reporter: HE DID WORK FOR WWJ. HE WORKED IN THE TEST AND BALANCE DIVISION THERE. WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY HOW LONG HE HAD BEEN WORKING THERE, THOUGH. WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT HE HAS A SON. NOW JEFF TOLD US THAT THROUGH ALL OF THIS CHAOS HE WAS ACTUALLY ABLE TO REACH FOR EDWIN THOMAS' PHONE AND SORT THROUGH SOME
OF THE LAST CALLS HE MADE. WHEN HE WAS FINALLY ABLE TO REACH SOMEBODY LIVE OVER THE PHONE HE SAYS THAT THE PERSON IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS EDWIN THOMAS' SON.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
A driver was killed in a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 95 near Airport Road on Tuesday afternoon.
Edwin Thomas, 50, of Middleburg, died in the crash involving three vehicles, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
FHP said Diana Pineiro, 28, was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer south on I-95 in the center lane. Thomas, the driver of a Nissan Titan, was on the entrance ramp from Airport Road to I-95 southbound as a tractor-trailer was heading south in the right lane.
Troopers said shortly before 4 p.m. Pineiro lost control for unknown reasons and crossed the right and entrance ramp lanes. She collided with the Nissan.
Thomas lost control and went into the path of the tanker truck.
Thomas was killed. Pineiro suffered minor injuries. She had two children in the car, ages 4 and 6. They both had minor injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer, James Adams, 53, was not injured.
FHP said charges are pending. All drivers were wearing seat belts, according to FHP.
A witness to the crash told News4Jax on Wednesday that the first responding officer from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office chose to direct traffic instead of attempting to save Thomas' life.
The 23-year-old witness, who asked to be identified only as “Jeff,” said Thomas died in his lap after he was pinned between the steering wheel and windshield.
Jeff said Thomas had been eating a sandwich at the time of the crash, and he tried to clear the food stuck in Thomas' throat but couldn’t get it all out.
Jeff said he asked the officer for help, but that officer said less than a sentence to him and then turned his attention to the highway, walking away to guide traffic.
"It's unacceptable. He did zero. He didn't even touch the man. He peeked around my shoulder and walked away,” Jeff said. “The family needs to know he didn't die alone. Even though he did pass. That people tried. And I feel like the people need to know it wasn't the people that they pay to do it.”
Jeff said everyone involved in the crash, including the children, was already out of harm's way, and the cars were off the road when the officer went to direct traffic.
“Traffic coming down the overpass had slowed to a crawl, if not a stop, and they were creeping,” Jeff said. “They were doing that without the cop telling them what to do.”
News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith, a 26-year police veteran, said it's important to remember there are multiple sides to every story.
"The first priority at an accident scene is to render assistance to the injured based on your level of medical experience,” Smith said. “Or do what you can to keep any further injuries from occurring. Say there was a gas leak, or something like that, and that gas could be ignited or cause an explosion or a fire, then you want to do whatever it takes to make sure there is no one around there smoking or block off the area so no one goes into that area. So it really depends on what other things were going on at the time."
News4Jax attempted to contact JSO for a comment about Jeff's complaint against the officer, but we have not heard back yet.
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