Videos show driver using phone moments before truck falls off I-75 overpass

Image: Hillsborough Co. Fire Rescue
Image: Hillsborough Co. Fire Rescue

TAMPA, Fla.  (WFLA) – The Florida Highway Patrol has released two videos of a tractor-trailer that tumbled off Interstate-75 just before 7 a.m. on January 4.

The driver, 49-year-old Samuel R. Colon of Zephyrhills, survived the horrifying accident which knocked the cab completely off its trailer.

One video shows Colon on his cell phone when a car pulls out in front of him. The other video shows the road in front of Colon’s truck as the car darts out onto Interstate-75.

From outside the cab of the truck, you can see Colon is forced to take evasive action as the car gets on Interstate 75 and then hits the brakes.

The big rig hurtles over the guard rail and slams on to Fowler Avenue below.

When we asked Chad Bullard of Wesley Chapel if he was surprised Colon survived, he told News Channel 8, “Yes, I am.”

“I couldn’t imagine that,” said Bobby Smith of Spring Hill.  “It’s unbelievable.”

But from inside the truck, it’s more of a case of a distracted driver.

Colon can be seen in the video looking down at his phone several times and when the car pulls in front of him, he loses control.

“It happens to me all the time,” said Smith, who drives a truck.  “I mean, nothing like happened to this guy, but people pull out in front of me all the time.”

Truckers we spoke may be sympathetic when it comes to the car that break checked Colon.

“It happens all the time,” said Jimmy Bolt of Wesley Chapel.  “When you’re driving a truck, that’s part of what you gotta’ look for.  You got to predict that that’s going to happen.”

But when it comes to Colon taking his eyes off the road, it’s a different story.

“I drove a semi for 10 years,” Bolt told News Channel 8.  “Me and my wife both did and we drove cross-country.  We never talked on the phone or nothing like that.”

So the lesson here?

“I come away with pay more attention around your surroundings and two, put the phone down,” said Chad Bullard of Wesley Chapel.  “Anyone who went through that is very lucky to be alive.”

FHP investigators believe it truly is a miracle Colon survived the accident.

“It very seriously could have left him or another passing motorist underneath…struck, injured, killed, so of course, we are very fortunate that no other motorists on Fowler Avenue were struck,” Sgt. Steve Gaskins with Florida Highway Patrol told News Channel 8 the morning of the incident.

FHP is still searching for the driver of the vehicle that swerved into the tractor-trailer’s path.

Anyone with information on the vehicle or the driver is asked to give Florida Highway Patrol a call at (813) 631-4020.

We’ll have more about the videos tonight at 6 on WFLA News Channel 8.

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