Fatal Crash Exposes Danger of Intersection in Old Seminole Heights

Alex Johnson was killed in a fatal crash May 7 at the intersection of Lambright Street and Florida Avenue in Old Seminole Heights, but could it have been avoided?

Alex Johnson was familiar with the intersection of Lambright Street and Florida Avenue in Old Seminole Heights, but that familiarity wasn't enough to save her life.

It was May 7 when Johnson, 27, came to the stop sign at Lambright heading west and needed to turn left onto Florida Avenue. She looked and pulled out, only to have her blue Infiniti . The driver of the SUV would sustain minor injuries, but Johnson would arrive at St. Joseph's Hospital already dead.

Alex left behind her Durant High school sweetheart and husband, David Johnson, a number of cats that she rescued and a heartbroken family. And her death is drawing attention to an area along Florida Avenue that residents say is due for change.

Johnson's fatal crash wasn't the first at that intersection. Over the past seven years, Tampa Police have responded to 16 crashes there, about a quarter of which involved injuries. The problems causing the danger come down to visibility and the speed of oncoming traffic, residents say.

"When you're sitting at that stop sign, there is a business on the left with a fence that hugs the sidewalk, and it makes difficult to see the traffic before it comes zooming by," Seminole Heights resident Chanteal Murphy said. "I can see how that accident can happen very easily."

The fence at causes the westbound driver a problem, residents say, in that in order to see oncoming traffic throroughly before pulling out, one would have to scoot the nose of a car out beyond the stop line and into the intersection. The auto body shop did not respond to messages left by a Patch reporter.

Though the posted speed limit on Florida Avenue is 40 mph, oncoming traffic is often moving upwards of 50 mph, leaving little time for either driver to react.

The solution is simple in Murphy's eyes.

"The city needs to ask that business to move the fence back away from the sidewalk to increase visibility," Murphy said. "I live on Lambright, but I won't go to that intersection, I use the light on Hanna. But that light doesn't have a sensor, so you end up sitting there for long periods of time. I see why people don't want to use that light, so if they aren't going to ask the business to move the fence, they should put a timer at the light on Hanna."

Johnson's family can't believe the danger posed by the intersection, and they voiced their displeasure in a e-mail to City Councilman Charlie Miranda.

"People have said that maybe some good will come of this, if the city makes those intersections safer," said Alex's aunt, Jennifer Gudelis, in an email to Patch. "I will never believe that there is 'good' to be found in Alex's death, but it also shouldn't go on like this. People have mentioned six fatal accidents in seven years and many more nonfatal ones at several of the Florida Avenue intersections in the Old Seminole Heights neighborhood. How many casualties are acceptable?"

That message was echoed by others from the Seminole Heights area and did not fall on deaf ears, according to Miranda's legislative aide, Mary Bryan. The city has an open investigation looking into possible improvements to the Florida Avenue corridor in Seminole Heights.

"Every single council member got the e-mails, and naturally we turned to the Department of Transportation," Bryan said. "We've been advised that there is an open investigation looking into that section of Florida Avenue."

What that investigation will yield or when it will be concluded was not made clear.

Alex's father, Army Special Forces Col. Duke Christie, flew home from Afghanistan to bury his only child. It has left him with only the glowing memory of his little girl, whose presence and sense of humor once filled any room she walked into. 

"If any good can come out of this terrible affair it would be to save some other family the grief and anguish we are experiencing by fixing the situation on Florida Avenue," Christie said in an email to Patch. "The facts are still being resolved, but it seems clear that my daughter was killed due a combination of a speeding driver and what may be an inherently dangerous road. Since this was apparently just one of many similar accidents that have occurred on that road, it is time for people to take action before the next fatal crash."

Gwen Hanner June 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Hmmm, great point. Apparantly I feed the City quite a bit on Florida Ave. Thank You! Got me thinking.....
Sue June 12, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Hiawatha is also hindered by chain link fencing from yet another car lot. Turning south onto Florida you have to stick your nose out, there is also a real estate post on that corner and a electrical pole and bus stop -very hard to see oncoming traffic. The car lot needs to remove chain link fencing and replace with something like the car lot on the next block up at sligh and florida so your sight line is not impeded!
MDB June 12, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Sue I have a car lot of Florida and I use 2 1/2 foot post. Chain link doesnt keep criminals who want to come in, out...they will still get in. It just makes for a very industrial looking eye sore. I would welcome the city saying no to the chain link on the front footage. I live here I don't want to see it which is why I don't use it.
Gwen Hanner June 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Thank you about the comment on chain link fences not keeping criminals out. This is so true. What the fences do, however for many cat lots, is to keep in working dogs. Many of the car lots on Florida Ave have working dogs with which I personally strongly disagree. The dogs are generally not well fed or provided with human touch or comfort from the weather, particularly the heat of summer and cold of the winter. I have fed my car lot neighbor's working dogs. My clients have been harrassed by working dogs. i have stood toe to toe with car lot owners about not caring for their working dogs. I have gone and picked up escaped pit bulls from residents yards and cared for them when the car lot owners weren't around to look after their animals. Basically, I feel that keeping working dogs is pretty close to barbaric. I expect to see these practices in a third world country. I feel that Seminole Height's tax paying residents and businesses deserve better that this. I am angry about these practices. Why do the Seminole Heights car lots, not you MDB, keep getting by with code violations and antiquated, old Tampa business beiiefs that continue to cause deaths to residents and animal cruelty?
Gwen Hanner June 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Also, MDB, I applaude you for having the type of fence that you have on your lot. Obviously you are an intelligent, considerate person with realistic beliefs and concerns. This was the type of fence located on the car lot to the the South East of my business until the origional owner died and the lot was sold. The new owner's proceeded to remove many beautiful shade trees from the lot, removed the old fence, paved the lot (previously mulched), erected the deadly chain link fence and installed working dogs. The dogs are now gone due to my many complaints and confrontations with the owner. Sadly, I do not know of the dog's relocation. I hope it was a humane one.


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