UPDATE, January 14 2019: News reports indicate that Heidi Jolin Mateo, age 9 months, has died in the hospital.

Lee County, FL — On January 9, 2019, a fatal wreck on the bridge over the Caloosahatchee River took the life of 58-year-old Johnny Coleman and caused serious injuries to three others: 24-year-old driver Miguel Imul, 16-year-old Dilia Mateo, and 9-month-old Heidi Mateo.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crash happened just after 9:00 a.m. on the I-75 bridge near the Bayshore Road exit. A tractor-trailer reportedly stalled in the right lane of traffic on the bridge. Coleman’s van approached the truck in the same lane and started to slow down when it was rear-ended by another car. The van was pushed into the rear of the truck and then along the concrete wall of the bridge. After striking the van, the car then collided with the rear of the disabled 18-wheeler and caught fire.

Coleman was pronounced dead at the scene. Miguel Imul and Dilia Mateo were transported to Lee Memorial Hospital with serious injuries. Heidi Mateo was rushed to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition.

Authorities continue to investigate the crash.

Map of the Area


Looking at this crash, some people may feel inclined to put the blame at the feet of the driver who didn’t slow down and hit the van. Others may seek to lay fault at the feet of the van driver, depending on how abruptly he applied his brakes near the truck. What should be remembered, though, is that neither of these things would have been an issue in the first place if not for the broken-down truck sitting in a travel lane like a 40-ton boulder.

Some may object to including the truck in the chain of fault for the accident; after all, mechanical things just break sometimes, don’t they? That may be true, but they break far more often when their integral parts have eroded or disconnected from neglect.

Some commercial truck firms will try to save money by delaying critical maintenance on their fleets–anything to keep the trucks rolling, because deadlines rule the logistics industry. This sort of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is not just detrimental when dealing with trucks; it’s actually downright dangerous. Just because the vehicle manages to limp along to a few more deliveries doesn’t mean it’s invincible. Sometimes, that neglect will make them break down in high-speed travel lanes, putting dozens if not hundreds of other drivers at risk until the obstacle can be removed.

With that said, I know that sometimes well-maintained vehicles still break down unpredictably. An important tool for determine which thing you’re looking at–a fully functional machine ambushed by a whimsical universe or a failing one whose owners are way behind on its upkeep–is the maintenance log that every commercial firm is required to keep. The log is a record of what service and repairs have been performed on their trucks and when.

Of course, if a company has neglected its trucks it’s not likely to just hand over the logs that prove its negligence, and it’s not required to by default. Plaintiffs must often obtain a subpoena, or official court order, to make the companies surrender that vital evidence.

Few road accidents are quite as simple as they appear, and knowing what caused them is vital to determining what will happen next.

–Grossman Law Offices

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Recent Comments to the Blog

Jason is back to work and is now playing Sled Hockey and wheelchair rugby!! Jason is the strongest and most amazing man! He may nly have 1/2 a leg, but that is ALL he is lacking!! Thanks to prayer and GOD and awsome first responders and Baylor doctors. Jason's wife, Sheila
— Sheila
I'm a former employee. I had brought up this exact scenario and suggested a maintenance procedure that would eliminate the possibility of this type injury. Obviously my warning went unheeded.
— Tophat
I was actually a couple cars back from this wreck, one of the first on the scene, and helped administer CPR on the victims. The truck driver was going way too fast, but it was actually his trailer that swung around and hit the suv, the semi-truck ended in the median.
— Leif Burton
I appreciate how you've commentated on this tragedy--informative, with questions, but not hurtful. I live within 30 mins of this crash site, and I am appalled at the entire situation :(. I can't even begin to understand what could have happened to make this come to fruition, but I will be keeping up with it so I can learn what investigations bring to light about how something awful like this could happen. Rest in peace, Thomas, Carolyn and Carolyn...
— Summer
I am Anthony Siffords daughter. im 13 and i miss my dad i just wanted everyone to know that he is in a better place now and i would to thank everyone for the support. i miss my dad but it was amazing to see how many people had been toughed by my dad god bless thanks for everything...
— Hannah Sifford
I am Rodney Palmer's sister-inlaw. I am amazed and grateful for all the heartfelt wishes and support for our family... It is difficult indeed to put our thoughts into words, but we very much appreciate your kind and helpful words at a time when these things mean so much. Losing someone as special as Rodney has been tough, but knowing the he has touched so many people's lives keeps my sister's strengthens our family.
— Maureen
A lot of people say smack about lawyers, but I want to say that I'm glad there is a way that people who are wronged by corporate neglect can get justice and force change. We are living in a world where corporations and govt care less than ever about common people, and I support your work. I hope I will never need your services.
— Martin Onasis
My friend Michael was the one who got hit by this train. This is the ONLY article I can find on it!! How is that possible? It happened almost 5 days ago! Thank you for actually caring about us "no name" people. I hope when more information comes in you will post it as soon as you can. Thank you again!! God bless you
— Leslie
Tony was the step Grant father and it's been hard for the whole family but we know he is in a better place now. It's nice to know that people are rasing awareness with my grandfathers story. Thanks, family and friends of Tony Wray.
— Mercedes Stanley
Thank you for posting these accident articles on your site. At the company that I work for, e deal with monitoring construction activity and work around trenches and all sorts of construction equipment/vehicles. I sometimes wonder if construction companies have enough safety training to inform employees of how to protect themselves while on the job.
— Erik Hofmann
I'd like to thank you for giving my cousin's death some type of recognition and letting our family know he is not a lost cause. Thank you <3
— Victoria

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