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A Pompano Beach woman and a friend were heading home from a visit to South Carolina when a truck traveling the wrong way on Interstate 95 smashed head-on into their car in Volusia County.
Jennifer Starr Otto, a passenger in a 2013 Toyota Prius, was killed in the crash, which happened at 1:55 a.m. Sunday near Ormond Beach, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Otto was 21.
Injured was the driver of the Prius, Maria Stengel, 29, a Hillsboro Beach police officer and a Boca Raton resident. Stengel remained in serious condition Monday in Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
Both women were wearing seat belts, officials said.
Alex Edward Jamison, 28, of Simpsonville, S.C., was at the wheel of a 2007 Ford pickup traveling north in the southbound lanes, according to FHP.
The front end of the truck stuck the front of the Prius head-on, and the truck overturned, investigators said. Jamison was able to get out of the vehicle on his own, FHP said.
Jamison, also wearing a seat belt, sustained minor injuries.
Charges are pending, investigators said.
Fred Otto said his daughter and Stengel had been visiting friends at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., where Jennifer had attended school.
She planned to enroll in Broward College this fall, and aspired to be a nurse or a veterinarian, he said.
“She was kind and caring to everybody, loved to help people out,” said Otto of his daughter.
Jennifer Otto worked as a nanny, looking after children, and also at ice skating rinks in Pompano Beach and Coral Springs, her father said.
Stengel has worked for the Town of Hillsboro Beach for about six years, first as a police dispatcher. After graduating from the police academy, she became s sworn police officer in January 2016 and is assigned to road patrol, according to Police Maj. Jay Szesnat.
“This is just shocking,” said Szesnat. “Our hearts go out to all the families involved.”
Sgt. Mark Wysocky, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol in Broward County, said, “Wrong-way crashes don’t happen frequently, but when they do the results can be deadly.”
Wrong-way crashes usually occur at night or in the early morning, and often involve someone impaired by alcohol or drugs, according to Florida traffic studies.
Following a November 2013 wrong-way crash on the Sawgrass Expressway that killed two 21-year-old women from Coral Springs, safety devices, including flashing beacons, solar-powered warning signs and vehicle-detection equipment, were installed on 10 ramps on the turnpike’s Homestead Extension between Miramar and Doral and on five ramps on the Sawgrass in Broward.
But that equipment is not present at most entrance ramps to I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike.
The Volusia County crash remains under investigation.