Shawn A. Harris and Josh R. Gouette were injured in a two-vehicle collision on Friday, news sources report. Gouette, 30, of Royal Palm Beach, was allegedly in the wrong lanes of Okeechobee Boulevard at the time of the accident. Harris, 36, sustained minor injuries; Gouette suffered critical injuries and is recovering at a local hospital. So far, there have been no charges filed, although reports suggest that drugs or alcohol may have been involved. It is unclear whether Harris will file for damages.
According to reports, the incident occurred around 10:45 Friday evening on Okeechobee Boulevard, east of the Florida Turnpike. Okeechobee Boulevard has six lanes, three lanes going either direction, and is centered by a grassy median. For reasons that are still unclear, sources say Gouette began driving his 2002 Saturn the wrong way down the eastbound lanes of the boulevard moments before the crash. Harris was eastbound in his 2006 Acura when Gouette collided with him head-on, reports say.
Harris sustained minor injuries and was taken to the West Palm Hospital. Gouette injuries were more severe and he was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center. An update on the victims’ conditions was not immediately available at press time. Detectives have not yet said whether they have determined what led to Gouette driving on the wrong side of the street.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, around 360 people are killed every year in wrong-way collisions. Researchers with the board examined 1,566 wrong-way crashes from 2004 through 2009 and found that in 59% of those accidents, the wrong-way driver was under the influence of alcohol. Palm Beach County is no stranger to alcohol-influenced accidents; records from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows there were 1,123 alcohol-related crashes in the county in 2010.
In other news, Jonathan Eismann of Miami-Dade County was arrested Saturday after he was accused of hitting and killing 29-year-old pedestrian Juan Carlos Ruiz in a hit-and-run crash, reports say. Eismann, 51, was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail on charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage and vehicular homicide in a reckless manner. A judge set Eismann’s bond at $16,000. It is not yet known whether he has hired legal representation.
According to reports, the accident occurred around 8:47 a.m. on October 10, 2012. Eismann’s Ford Explorer was in a crash with a Nissan Sentra at the intersection of Northwest 1st Terrace and 72nd Avenue that morning, reports say. Eismann allegedly tried to flee the scene of the crash, but in his haste he reportedly lost control of his SUV at the intersection of Northwest 3rd Street and 72nd Avenue. Eismann then veered onto the sidewalk and fatally struck Ruiz before crashing into a light pole, sources indicate.
Eismann sustained injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. It is unclear whether the driver of the Sentra was injured, nor is it known what caused that accident Eismann was not arrested until Saturday; an investigation is ongoing.
Sources: 6.29.13 Gouette and Harris Collision.pdf, Wrong-Way Crash Statistics – Gouette and Harris Collision.pdf, 6.29.13 Eismann and Ruiz Crash.pdf, Alcohol-Related Accidents – Gouette and Harris Collision.pdf.