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“It’s very upsetting”: Port LaBelle resident calls for traffic light after deadly crash on SR-80

Candace Stewart warns of recurring accidents at Birchwood Parkway intersection, and calls for road safety improvements
Posted at 7:16 PM, May 23, 2024

PORT LABELLE, Fla. — If you were in LaBelle Thursday, May 23rd, you might have seen a bad crash on State Road 80 - and now, one woman is warning that this kind of thing will keep happening in Port LaBelle.

Fox 4’s Hendry County Community Correspondent, Austin Schargorodski, works in the area every day, so he connected with someone online who said they see crashes here constantly.

SR-80 was reduced to one lane at the Birchwood Parkway intersection while troopers and firefighters investigated the crash where a dump truck flipped over after it crashed into an SUV.

Overturned dump truck on the side of SR-80.
Overturned dump truck on the side of SR-80.

Candace Stewart said she was outside her house nearby when suddenly… “I heard a boom, then another boom, and it was extremely loud,” said Stewart.

Those booms - from the crash were troopers say an 18-year-old from LaBelle, crossed SR-80 in his SUV, driving in front of the dump truck which hit the SUV and flipped over.

They say the dump truck driver, a 58-year-old from Lehigh Acres, was thrown from the truck and killed as he was not wearing a seatbelt.

“When I found out it was a fatality, I’ve been thinking about it all day and it’s very upsetting…very upsetting,” said Stewart.

Candace Stewart, Port LaBelle resident.
Candace Stewart, Port LaBelle resident.

Stewart said this is just one of many serious accidents she and her family have seen at this intersection - and she believes it has to do with the road design.

“There is a series of curves and you really don’t get to see a vehicle traveling until you’re really seriously looking,” Stewart explained.

So, Stewart said she thinks a traffic light at this intersection would make it a lot safer.

Crashed SUV on the side of SR-80.
Crashed SUV on the side of SR-80.

“We have to do something. Our community is growing - it’s growing rapidly - there’s a lot of homes out here now and a lot of traffic,” Stewart said.

Florida Highway Patrol said the crash remains under investigation, and they have yet to release the names of the drivers.