Road ranger's truck hit by motorist who failed to move over

Image 1 of 2

Master Sgt. Mary Godino knows just how dangerous the job of a road ranger can be.

"They're more vulnerable than the rest of us," Godino said.

The Florida Highway Patrol Master Sergeant witnessed it first-hand Monday night, when a driver struck a road ranger truck along I-4.

The road ranger had just returned to his vehicle and was typing up the event on his laptop.

"We had one of our Road Ranger trucks on the side of the road, on mile marker 27, assisting a disabled vehicle," she said. "He was out changing a tire."

He had his arrow boards out and had deployed his traffic cones when a motorist failed to move over and ran directly into the road ranger's truck, said Sgt. Godino. 

The speed limit in the area was 70 miles per hour, but FHP hadn't determined just how fast the vehicle was going when it slammed into the ranger's truck.

The road ranger survived the impact, but the driver who struck him did not. 70 year-old Joseph Shoenbauer Jr., died. His passenger, 66 year-old Winefred Schoenbauer, was taken to Lakeland Regional in critical condition. 

FHP says they are still looking into what cause the vehicle to veer out of its lane. 

"At this time, we do not know why he failed to move over," she said.

Florida is one of 43 states that requires drivers to change lanes or reduce their speed by 20 miles per hour if they're passing someone working on the side of the road. 

"We need room to work," Godino said. "So if you're traveling 60, 70, 80 miles an hour next to the lane we're working, we sometimes need more room than that."

The Tampa area has a history of fatal crashes involving vehicles that didn't move over or slow down. 

In 2016, tow truck driver Danny Hand was hit and killed while helping someone on the side of Interstate 275 South, near Fowler Avenue.  According to troopers, Hand's tow truck lights were flashing, but the driver who hit him said he didn't notice.

In October of the same year, Troy McGuire was hit and killed by an accused drunk driver while helping law enforcement on the shoulder of I-75.

Earlier that year, in February, driver Allison Huffman was arrested after allegedly hitting and killing Tampa tow truck driver Roger Perez Borroto, then ditching the car at a hotel and calling a cab to go to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. 

FHP says road rangers are trained to park a specific way in cast they do get hit. "They're trained to turn their wheels away from whatever side of the road they're on," Godino said. "So this way, if they do get struck by the rear, it'll go into the direction away from the vehicle in front of them."

Because of that training, she says, the vehicle in front of the road ranger's truck had only minor damage. The driver was O.K.

The ranger himself had minor bumps and bruises, but nothing serious.