J.D. Gallop, Wochit
MELBOURNE, Fla. — A 100-year-old man died Sunday following a Florida traffic crash involving sandhill cranes crossing a road.
“In my 25 years, I’ve heard of people stopping for turtles or cows, but I’ve never seen this, a fatality involving Sandhill cranes,” said Lt. Kim Montes, spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol, the agency investigating the deadly Melbourne crash.
A specially equipped 2016 Chrysler Van — fitted for the driver who is paraplegic — was traveling westbound approaching a 2010 BMW and a 1996 Toyota Avalon. Both the BMW and the Avalon were stopped in the westbound lane as a family of Sandhill cranes began crossing the busy roadway.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers said that Suzanne Clark of Melbourne, the 39-year-old disabled driver of the van, was approaching the BMW when Clark suddenly moved to the right to avoid the car. Troopers said Clark, who then spotted the cranes in the roadway, then veered back into the left lane, striking the rear of the BMW. The BMW was then pushed into the back of the Toyota Avalon.
The van then also struck the rear of the Avalon. The centenarian, identified as Clark’s grandfather, Robert Schantz of Osprey, was a passenger in the van. The Osprey, Florida, man suffered a severe leg trauma that required a tourniquet, Montes said. Brevard County paramedics arrived within moments and treated the man. Schantz was later pronounced dead at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.
A total of five people were transported to area hospitals, Montes said, but none of the drivers were seriously injured. The birds — two adults and one baby sandhill crane — were not injured.
An investigation is ongoing.
The Sandhill Crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is a state-designated threatened species.
Ginny Beagan, TCPALM
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