Baker County, FL : Three people dead and six others hurt after a two vehicle crash and fire in Baker County early Thursday morning, January 1, 2015
Just an hour and a half into the new year, two teenagers and the father of a large family die in a head-on collision on U.S. 90 in Sanderson. The man's wife and five children were seriously injured.
The Florida Highway Patrol says an Acura driven by 17-year-old David Schafer, of Jacksonville, was going the wrong way in the eastbound lanes about 1:30 a.m. That car collided head-on with a Ford Expedition carrying a family of seven people from Lake City.
Troopers said the drivers of both vehicles died, as well as the passenger in the car. In addition to Schafer, his passenger, Jessica Perry, also 17 and from Jacksonville, and Levi Town, 33, of Lake City, died in the crash.
Rescue personnel from Baker and Columbia counties responded to the mass-casualty crash and at least three medical helicopters transported a woman and five children who survived the crash.
The FHP has identified those injured as Amber Town (pictured with Levi Town), 31, along with five children with the same last name. The woman and three of the kids were taken to UF Shands in Gainesville and the other two children were transported to UF Health in Jacksonville. All six were listed in serious condition.
Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson lives nearby and rushed to the scene, arriving to see the family's SUV still in flames and children laying in the road.
"They tried hard to save everybody," said Dobson. "We had eight or 10 of our rescue EMS people working on them."
Greg Horne lives next door to the Town family. He is worried about the children, who not only are badly hurt but also have lost their father.
"Just a real good family," Horne said. "It is going to be tough for them because he was the breadwinner; he was the rock to them."
Troopers said the eastbound car driven by Schafer (pictured with Perry) had passed westbound traffic on U.S. 90 without returning to the eastbound lane before striking the SUV head-on.
Blood alcohol tests were conducted on both drivers.
Britton Greenawalt said the death of Schafer, his best friend of 8 years, just doesn't seem real.
"Me and him, everything we learned we learn together pretty much. He's a skateboarder, me and him love skateboarding and fishing. Just doing everything together," Greenawalt said. "He's an awesome person. I love him more than anything and he was more than a brother to me."
But those realities would soon be memories when Greenawalt heard Schafer and Perry were killed just hours into the new year.
Greg Horne is close neighbors with the town family.
"They're always out in the yard playing. They come over and play on the trampoline, just always been good neighbors," said Horne.
Greenawalt said Schafer was the youngest of six loving and religious brothers and sisters who are still trying to understand the death of their baby brother.
"They're all loving. They are like my family. I treat them like my own, too, and none of them have even excepted the fact that he's gone yet. It's really hard for everyone," Greenawalt said. "I'm going to see David again. But you know, I'm going to miss everything about him. But I will see him again I know that. He was a great person."
U.S. 90 was closed for most of the night. Eastbound lanes opened before dawn and westbound lanes were cleared about 10 a.m.
3 dead, 6 injured in Baker County crash