EL JOBEAN — Two Rotonda West residents were seriously injured, and westbound traffic was shut down for several hours Wednesday, following a crash on State Road 776 east of Willow Bend Road.
A 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis and a 1998 Ford van were involved in the accident, which took place at 12:32 p.m.
Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies redirected traffic around the crash site through the Riverwood community.
Normal traffic flow was restored by 2:45 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Steven M. McClarren, 23, of Port Charlotte, was driving the van behind Darlene M. Sharpe, 42, and her passenger, Randy T. Sharpe, 46, both of Rotonda West, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.
The Mercury “was traveling at a slow rate of speed for an unknown reason,” the FHP report states.
The van failed to slow down in time and struck the rear of the Mercury, which spun, struck a concrete curb and came to rest in the westbound right lane and bike lane of S.R. 776.
Steve Lineberry, a Riverwood resident, arrived on the scene a few minutes after the crash, right before emergency responders showed up.
“They were trapped in there,” Lineberry said. “It was hard to tell how injured they were.”
Lineberry says he was impressed watching as Charlotte County Fire/EMS used the Jaws of Life to extract the crash victims from the mangled wreckage.
“I think they’re lucky to be alive,” Lineberry said.
Helicopters from MedStar and Bayflite each departed with one victim around 1:10 p.m. for the Lee Memorial Hospital Trauma Center in Fort Myers. The landing zone was at Charlotte Sports Park, near the crash site.
The Sharpes both suffered serious injuries, according to the FHP report.
Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Charlotte County Fire/EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins said, “One person definitely had life-threatening injuries.”
McClarren was taken to Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte with minor injuries.
All three were wearing their seat belts.
The damage to each vehicle was estimated at $5,000, the FHP report shows.
McClarren was charged with careless driving.