Deadly crashes impact the lives of many in SWFL

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
FILE Photo deadly crash scene. Credit: WINK News.

It was a deadly year in 2020 for those on our roads in Southwest Florida. For the first time in three years, more than 100 drivers died in Lee County crashes and a little over 200 crashes total in Southwest Florida counties. The people who make up those statistics are parents, siblings and friends.

MORE: Florida Crash Dashboard

We looked at how deadly crashes impact lives of community members in Southwest Florida.

Jessica Riner doesn’t see yellow tape or big blue and red lights when she drives by a crash scene. She feels the sudden change in people’s lives.

“They may have kids. They may have parents, cousins, nieces, nephews,” Riner said.

Riner’s husband died in a crash in 2015 because of a drunk driver. Her four young boys lost their father, and she suddenly had to raise them alone.

“Everyone’s life as the cars went by kept going, and my life that night changed forever,” Riner said.

According to Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, in 12 months, 106 people died in Lee County crashes, 43 in Collier County, 26 in Charlotte County, 14 in DeSoto County, 4 in Glades County and 11 in Hendry County.

With the loss of those individuals, Riner knows personally how hard life becomes for a long time for the loved ones who must carry on without them.

“Going to the funeral, we had an open casket,” Riner said. “The trial was very hard. It was very hard to hear the mortician talk … The closet, it made it hard walking into the closet seeing all of his stuff, knowing he’s not coming back.”

“Our anniversary, holidays, Facebook memories, those are brutal,” Riner said. “When I look at how big they are, when I think of all the things he’s missed, that’s hard.”

“The youngest one doesn’t remember him, which makes me sad. He said, ‘Mommy, I don’t remember daddy anymore,’” Riner said. “As time fades, memories fade.”

That’s why, with every crash, Riner sees more than red and blue lights and yellow tape. She suffers over the loss of life again.

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