Newlyweds Santeena Spates and Carlton Francis Jr. unhurt as I-95 debris pierces windshield

Newlyweds Santeena Spates and Carlton Francis Jr. were running errands before their honeymoon when danger — in the form of a large pole — hurtled through their Range Rover's windshield on Interstate 95.

The pair pulled over after Tuesday's accident, and determined neither was injured, officials said. Still, the couple were covered in glass fragments and the four-foot metal object remained wedged in their shattered windshield.

"It sounded like an explosion," Francis told WPLG-Ch. 10.  He was in the passenger seat when the pole flew through the windshield, narrowly missing him and his new bride who was driving.

"It was literally across my chest," Francis told the station.

They were taken to Memorial Regional Hospital, where they were treated and released, officials said.

"The only thing I can say is that the Lord was on her side," Spates' sister, Chanel Wells, said Tuesday evening.

Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Wysocky said: "Both were pretty shaken up, but they had no scratches and no injuries."

Spates, 31, and Francis, 29, both of Weston, got married Friday, and were running several errands across Broward on Tuesday, Wells said. The couple planned to soon travel from central Florida to their honeymoon in Hawaii, Wells said.

According to the Highway Patrol, Spates was driving southbound on I-95, just south of the Griffin Road exit in Hollywood, about 11:30 a.m. when she saw a vehicle ahead of her hit some debris in the roadway.

The debris "was kicked up in the wind" by the other vehicle, and it pierced the Range Rover's glass, Wysocky said. The pair were wearing their seat belts during the accident, the Highway Patrol said.

Given vehicles' high speed on I-95, the pole essentially became "a projectile" on the highway, said Mark Steele, division chief for Hollywood Fire Rescue.

Wells said, "It just happened so fast. At that point, there was really nothing they could do."

Authorities said they were unsure where the debris originated from, but said the accident's outcome could have been much worse. Road debris has caused at least two deaths along South Florida's interstate highways in recent years.

In 2005, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Henry Latimer died on Interstate 595 after he swerved to avoid hitting a large piece of plastic debris. He hit a concrete piling and the car burst into flames.

In 2004, Claudia Avila, of Pompano Beach, died after a 34-pound piece of steel crashed through her windshield on I-95.

In 1998, a steel rod from a truck on I-95 impaled then-13-year-old Stephanie Murray. The rod went through her chest, barely missing her heart. She survived.

Crews pick up tons of road debris every day along South Florida expressways.

Maintenance crews have found everything from guns to a kitchen sink. Most commonly found are tires, buckets, mattresses, box springs, car parts, containers, ladders, wheelbarrows, cabinets, wooden pallets and all kinds of furniture.

Toilets, bathtubs and tile turn up regularly. Occasionally appliances can be found along the roadside.

The state Department of Transportation spends about $950,000 a year in Palm Beach County and $521,000 a year in Broward to pick up road debris. The I-595 construction concessionaire andFlorida's Turnpike Enterprise each have their own Road Ranger crews that help pick up trash along their respective roads.

During the summer, more shredded tires and bits of blown tires litter the highway. Officials say much of the debris littering highways comes from drivers not properly tying their items down.

Drivers can be ticketed for not properly securing a load. They also can face charges if something falls off their vehicles and causes an accident.

Authorities urge anyone who sees road debris on the highway to call *FHP. Road Rangers will be dispatched to remove it.

It was unclear whether the newlyweds' honeymoon would be significantly postponed. Of her sister, Wells said, "She's at home resting. We're just relieved and happy that her life was spared."

Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

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