COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- A woman who witnessed a multi-car crash on I-75 last Thursday morning spoke exclusively to WINK News about the moments leading up to the crash.
The accident happened moments after a driver hit and killed a panther in the roadway on I-75 south near Immokalee Road.
Meaghan Brady was driving right behind a semi truck that slammed into two other vehicles, which had slowed down as they drove past the dead animal.
"I was pretty focused on the road because of the fog and that's when I saw sparks from the semi truck driving in front of me. Sparks just started flying from the front of it, and that's when I realized he was slamming on his breaks. So we slammed on ours and it was already pretty close, so I had to swerve off the road up onto the grass and we just missed it," she says. "It was just seconds and inches away from a total- it could have gone totally different."
Brady says she was amazed no one was seriously injuried. "Seeing the two cars that did get hit by the truck, we didn't know if the people inside them were ok and not only that, we could have been the people inside of them. People were flying out of their cars saying call 911, it was really scary."
She adds, "the first thing we were doing was praying for the people in those cars, it was a big relief getting to see how fast the ambulances, EMS and fire trucks responded to it."
Now, the 23-year-old has a message to other drivers. "There's so many distractions now a days, whether it be cell phones or talking to your friend in the car or doing your mascara on the way to work, we really have to be aware in our present moment because in the blink of an eye something can happen that can change the rest of your life. Life is precious and living everyday like it's your last. Obviously we had that moment, we could have been in the back of a semi truck or underneath it and thank God we're ok and everyone else is ok, but it really came down to being in that present moment."
Her friend, Brenna Bartholf who was in the car, says, "honestly it was probably one of the most terrifying experiences. What I thought was a deer in the road and as soon as I looked up to Meaghan to say did you see that deer, she slammed on the breaks and we had to swerve into the median. One of the first things we did was said a prayer for the people involved."
FWC officials say that panther killed was the same one that was roaming around a Golden Gate Estates neighborhood and killed at least one family pet.