100-Year-Old Man Dies in Crash After Cars Stop for Threatened Animals

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
April 29, 2019US News
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100-Year-Old Man Dies in Crash After Cars Stop for Threatened Animals
Sandhill cranes in a file photo. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

A 100-year-old Florida man died on April 28 in a crash involving sandhill cranes crossing the road.

Two cars were stopped on the west side of a road in Melbourne when a third car, a Chrysler Van, moved toward the scene.

The van was being driven by Suzanne Clark, 39.

She moved to the right to avoid the two cars, a BMW and a Toyota Avalon, but when she spotted the cranes, which the two cars had stopped for, she veered back to the left and slammed into the BMW, pushing it into the Avalon.

The centenarian, Robert Schantz of Osprey, Clark’s grandfather, was in the passenger seat of the Chrysler.

He suffered severe leg trauma that required a tourniquet, Lt. Kim Montes, spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol, the agency investigating the deadly crash, told Florida Today. He was rushed to a hospital but was later pronounced dead.

“In my 25 years, I’ve heard of people stopping for turtles or cows, but I’ve never seen this, a fatality involving Sandhill cranes,” Montes said.

Four other people were injured in the wreck and were taken to hospitals in the area. None of their injuries were serious, Montes said.

The sandhill cranes were not injured.

The Florida sandhill crane population contains approximately 5,000 individuals found from the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Everglades in Florida, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service. It’s also protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Though the population is considered threatened in Florida, it is set up well for the future, the service said in late 2018.

“The Service found that the most critical factor impacting Florida sandhill crane populations is habitat availability. The crane’s demonstrated ability to adapt to agricultural and suburban habitats (e.g., croplands, pastures, golf courses, and recreational areas) for breeding, nesting and feeding activities are helping ensure the population’s resiliency,” it stated.

Fatal Car Crash Statistics

The Department of Transportation said in October 2018 that there were 37,133 deaths from motor vehicle crashes in 2017, a decrease of almost 2 percent from 2016. In comparison, there was an increase of about 6.5 percent from 2015 to 2016 and an increase of about 8 percent from 2014 to 2015. Pedestrian fatalities also declined by about 2 percent. While deaths in both categories declined, officials said more can be done.

“Dangerous actions such as speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence are still putting many Americans, their families and those they share the road with at risk,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Heidi King in a statement. “Additionally, we must address the emerging trend of drug-impaired driving to ensure we are reducing traffic fatalities and keeping our roadways safe for the traveling public.”

The deaths occurred over 34,247 motor vehicle crashes, resulting in 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.1 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

The highest fatality rate was in Mississippi, with 23.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and the highest death rate per 100 million miles was in South Carolina, with 1.8 deaths, according to an analysis of Department of Transportation data by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A preliminary estimate of the first half of 2018 (pdf) showed that an estimated 17,120 people died in car crashes from January through June, which would be a decrease of about 3 percent from the previous year. The statistics indicate the fifth consecutive quarter in which traffic fatalities declined.

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