ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- It started as a simple two-vehicle crash on State Road 16 and County Road 208 Saturday afternoon, but one driver's alleged reference to a bomb caused SR16 to be shut down for four hours.
"I'd have to go back 10 miles just to get over onto US1 and then come back another 15 and then up State Road 16 for another five or six miles," said Bobby Butterfield, a St. Augustine resident.
Drivers were re-routed while the St. Johns County Sheriff's Bomb Squad used bomb sniffing canines, robots, and cameras to find the alleged explosive device.
Victor Ruben David Calderon, 48, was arrested after he reportedly became physical and struck both a deputy and Florida state trooper trying to investigate the crash. According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's office, Calderon became combative and tried to leave the accident scene, then allegedly made references to an explosive device in the trunk of his car.
"He did not speak English as his first language and they had a little hard time getting through the minutia if you will, of what he was trying to convey to them, but eventually they did determine that he was making threats that there was a bomb in the car and that when they went to inventory the car, move the car, that it was going to explode," said Commander Chuck Mulligan, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
The Bomb Squad found several packages inside the trunk, but no explosives. FHP says while the suspect was being booked into jail he admitted to making false statements about an explosive.
The hours of setting up equipment and searching the vehicle costs tens of thousands of dollars, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. At least 30 officers were on scene, many called in while they were off-duty.
The incident also left many stranded at gas stations and parking lots.
Palm Coast resident Emma LaChance says she waited over two hours to get back on I-95.
"It's very frustrating and it's ridiculous the amount of time I spent just waiting and waiting. They told me I could have taken another route, but it's 20 or 30 miles out of the way according to some of the people that know the roads around here," said LaChance.
Meanwhile others trying to get back to hotels near the accident scene had no choice but to wait.
"That's too scary because we were glad we weren't in the hotel and we were worried about the hotel having to be evacuated so we're glad we're all safe and we're glad everybody else is too," said Judy Hedges Wiedmann of Cocoa, FL.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Calderon is charged with driving with no license, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, resisting without violence, and false report of a bomb/explosive device and/or weapon of mass destruction.
FHP's crash report also indicates that Calderon was trying to make an "improper left turn through the paved portion of the left turn lane in the median from the Exxon Gas station parking lot."
The driver of the other vehicle was traveling eastbound on SR 16 when Calderon reportedly entered the driver's lane causing the driver to hit Calderon's car on the left side.
Neither of the drivers were hurt in the crash.
First Coast News