Three people were killed early Monday morning when a Jeep veered off U.S 1 near the Key Haven boat ramp, striking two homeless men and ejecting the driver, who was found impaled in the mangroves, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Mark "Woodie" Dawood, 35, of Big Coppitt Key was driving the Jeep at 3 a.m. near Mile Marker 5 when he reportedly drove off the right side of the northbound lane, went over the guardrail, down an embankment and into two homeless men camping in the mangrove area, said Trooper Gary Dunick.
The Jeep overturned, ejecting Dawood into the mangroves, and then came to rest in about three feet of water, Dunick said.
Lauren "Larry" Laflair, 58, formerly of Bay Point was one of the men killed while camping in the mangrove are. Investigators refused to identify the third victim, a 53-year-old male, pending notification of his family, Dunick said.
All were pronounced dead at the scene, which Dunick described as a "mess," saying he had not seen such a horrific crash in some time, despite a particularly deadly year along U.S. 1. Monday's accident brought the death toll this year to 11 on the Florida Keys' only link to the mainland.
"Here two guys were off the roadway and here comes a Jeep," Dunick said. "It just goes to show that you never know when your time will come."
The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Dawood was alone in the Jeep and no other vehicles were involved, Dunick said.
"We're waiting on toxicology reports, but he could have been lighting a cigarette or was distracted in some other way," Dunick said. "We just don't know."
Northbound lanes were shut down near the scene until about 4:30 a.m., said Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.