8 On Your Side: Why guard rails on I-4 didn’t help prevent deadly crash

Dustin Wayne Poole, 22.

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) – It was described as “horrific.” A deadly chain-reaction crash on Interstate 4 in Polk County left four people dead Tuesday, including a 12-year-old girl, Cassie Ann Gatcha of Clermont.

Commuters were shaken during morning rush hour as they witnessed complete chaos with bodies on the interstate amidst seven cars and trucks mangled.  Among those who stopped was a mom who told WFLA she was “in shock.”

According to reports from Florida Highway Patrol, 22-year-old Dustin Wayne Poole from Haines City was driving his Ford F-250 pickup truck way too fast, possibly even racing a Prius. That’s when Poole lost control, documents show, and barreled across the median, through the cable barriers into oncoming traffic.

Now, more than 24 hours after the tragic accident, questions remain as to why those barriers failed. We asked communication director Robin Stublen from the Department of Transportation in Bartow.

He said the answer is simple. “They’re not designed for that,” Stublen told 8 on Your Side.

The cables, he explained, are meant to deflect cars and trucks at an angle, not head-on in a high-speed crash.

FHP confirms to WFLA that the pick-up truck was, indeed, traveling at a very high rate of speed. So, 8 On Your Side asked the Department of Transportation, “The way that the truck hit those cable barriers, there was no way it would have deflected it?”

Stublen answered, ”Well, it’s not really deflection when you hit something head-on.”

He followed up by maintaining that in nearly 97 percent of cross-median crashes, the cable barriers work and save lives. This case was an “anomaly,” he says. “These cable barriers do their job,” he added.

Bottom line, in this case, the reason these barriers failed is that the pickup truck was going so fast, according to FHP, that it plowed right through the barriers nearly head-on. The vehicle went airborne into oncoming traffic killing four people, including the driver himself who was not wearing his seat belt, along with three other people.

Poole’s family released this statement about the tragedy:

“We grieve with the families who have been affected by this tragic accident as we grieve for the loss of our own son. We continue to pray for comfort and strength for the families and are grateful for all who also pray for us. We appreciate privacy for our family as we mourn the loss of our son.”

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