A Florida teen has been arrested and charged after a fiery crash that claimed the lives of two friends last February. Joshua Ritter, 19, has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of reckless driving causing serious bodily injury. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the five teenage boy passengers were taking turns speeding down Fort Florida Road in DeBary and hanging onto the outside of the car. This dangerous action is called “car surfing” when there is a driver and “ghost riding” when the driver is also hanging outside of the car.
Determining how the events unfolded to cause the tragic accident was made easier by video taken on a cell phone camera by one of the car’s passengers. The video shows the five boys taking turns driving up and down Fort Florida Road at speeds of up to 80mph, despite a speed limit of only 35mph. At the time of the accident, Ritter was the driver with two friends in the car and two others hanging from the outside of the 2001 Nissan Xterra. At the dirt portion of the road Ritter lost control of the car, sending Carlos Velazco, 18, into a ditch and knocking the other “car surfer” off the back bumper. Velazco was airlifted but later died from his injuries. When the car lost control and flipped on its side, Ritter and another passenger were able to escape the vehicle before it burst into flames. Hunger Perez, 18, was in the back seat and was not able to exit the vehicle before flames engulfed it.
“Car surfing” is an extremely dangerous thrill-seeking practice that has caused a significant number tragic accidents since its inception. In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study reporting that at least 99 people (mostly male teenagers) had either died or experienced serious bodily injuries as a result of “car surfing,” a number that has surely increased in the last three years.
Car accidents are common but frequently the fault of other variables other than the driver. Things like road conditions, bad signage, defective auto parts, or the negligence or carelessness of another driver can be causing factors in an auto accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.