Dropped cell phone leads to crash that kills Henry County man

A 66-year-old Henry County man died early Tuesday in a three-vehicle wreck that allegedly started when another driver dropped her cell phone, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Investigators believe 18-year-old Brittany Gonzalez, of Seffner, Fla., dropped her cell phone while driving southbound on I-75 about 40 miles south of Tampa around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. When Gonzalez reached to pick her phone up, she drove her Ford Expedition into the shoulder and then over-corrected, causing the SUV to flip several times before ending up facing east in the middle lane, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gonzalez got out of the vehicle with minor injuries and was attempting to call 911 when James E. Sims Jr., of Stockbridge, driving a Chevrolet Suburban southbound, struck the side of the Expedition, the FHP said.

A third vehicle, a 2001 freight truck driven by Angel Pedraja, of Miami, tried to brake, but was unable to avoid hitting the Suburban. Pedraja, 37, struck the driver’s side of Sims’ vehicle, causing the freight truck to turn onto its side, the FHP said.

Sims was killed in the chain-reaction crash. Both Pedraja and Gonzalez sustained minor injuries and were transported to local hospital for treatment.

The wrecks caused a large fuel spill in the area, forcing lanes of I-75 to be closed in the area for several hours Tuesday.

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