After his new BMW sedan carried him Tuesday from a crash on the State Road 84 bridge onto an entrance ramp of I-595 about two stories below, survivor William Ciani said at first he didn't know if he was still alive.
Photographer: Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- After his new BMW sedan carried him Tuesday from a crash on the State Road 84 bridge onto an entrance ramp of I-595 about two stories below, survivor William Ciani said at first he didn't know if he was still alive.
"It was a weird feeling, tingly, adrenaline-pumping confusion," said the 23-year-old event coordinator, whose only pain as he was leaving Broward General Medical Center late Tuesday afternoon was skin burns from "the stupid airbag. I'm untouched."
The southbound I-95 ramp to S.R. 84 in Fort Lauderdale has been the site of at least three fatalities since it opened in 1990. State safety experts have tried just about everything to slow drivers who have to make sharp 90-degree turns.
The interchange's multilevel configuration of ramps, signals and concrete walls has challenged drivers of speeding, out-of control vehicles. Its barriers are battered and scarred.
"That is the worst-designed, most dangerous exit ramp in Broward County," said daily commuter Gary Tuchler of Pompano Beach. "Anyone traveling that exit for the first time is bound to not understand the extreme hard right turn ahead of them. And there is no stop. It is designed and marked for a continuous exit and turn."
In 2004, the state embedded 50 lights on the southbound exit ramp. They activated if drivers exceeded 45 mph after crossing sensors buried in the pavement. But the lights never worked properly during the two-year experiment, officials said.
The interchange divides east and westbound S.R. 84 traffic onto two high-level bridges elevated over I-95.
Westbound traffic travels on a lower bridge, 40 feet above the ground. Eastbound traffic travels on a second bridge, about 25 feet above the westbound bridge, under which Ciani's car landed.
The Florida DOT considered a traffic signal to slow drivers, but said westbound S.R. 84's elevation would make it difficult for drivers to stop in time.
In 2008, three men died and a fourth was critically injured when the driver, traveling from northbound I-95, intended to go west on S.R. 84, but failed to negotiate the ramp's curve and, like Ciani, plunged to the roadway below.
Fort Lauderdale Police Det. Travis Mandell said Ciani was lucky to be alive after the luxury car traveling along the southbound I-95 ramp hit a center concrete median and rubber poles on the State Road 84 bridge. The car went airborne and took out a V-shaped chunk of the concrete barrier on the far side of the overpass, Mandell said. It landed, apparently on its wheels, on the I-595 ramp.
Ciani said he was headed to work in Miami before the crash.
"I don't remember where I was or how I got there," he said.
The crash blocked three lanes of exit-ramp traffic for two hours for motorists headed south to local roads, west on I-595 or east toFort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Ciani was cited with failure to use due care and traveling too fast for road conditions, Mandell said. A photograph of the car shows the rear windshield broken out, the driver's side rear panel unattached and a deflated airbag.
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