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"It was shocking": Neighbors push for action after two die in Cracker Swamp Road car crash during Hurricane Ian

Nearly a week removed from the storm, and the ditch where the car crashed is still full of water.

EAST PALATKA, Fla. — Five glowing flowers and a baseball cap form a memorial for two lives lost on Cracker Swamp Road on Friday during Hurricane Ian flooding.

For some neighbors, it's two lives that could've been easily saved, and if anything, they're hoping it's a call to action.

"Cracker Swamp, we were born and raised on it," said Jody Counts, who lives along Cracker Swamp Road. "Family for generations."

Counts is a seventh generation cattle ranch in Cracker Swamp, which means any time he heads somewhere, it always starts with turning onto Cracker Swamp Road.

"Terrible traffic," said Counts. "You used to be able to take a nap at the middle of Cracker Swamp. Now, it's just traffic back to back."

Counts says a lot of that traffic is people cutting through and flying past his house, but anyone familiar with the road, knows to take it slow - especially when it rains.

He says even a light storm will flood chunks of it.

In fact, his brother has even gotten stuck in the past.

"Little bit of water on the road, it'll sweep you right off into the ditch," said Jett Counts. "I was glad I didn't get hurt or anything."

That same spot where Counts had his truck fill with water is where two people were killed after hydroplaning, flipping, and submerging in the ditch during Hurricane Ian according to Florida Highway Patrol.

The Counts say they knew the passenger - she worked at a bar in East Palatka.

"If the county cleaned the ditches out like they're supposed to, get all the water flowing, that'd help a lot," said Jett Counts. "Every now and then they come up with some big plans to fix everything, but it never works out."

First Coast News reached out to five Putnam County Commissioners at the numbers they have listed on the official website, but got no response.

While the Counts wait for drainage work, they hope this will at least be a somber reminder to slow down.

"It was shocking," said Jody Counts. "Terrible for anyone to have that happen to them. The way the roads are, it happens a lot."

The Counts brothers say one simple fix could just be adding more signage on Cracker Swamp Road when there's a weather event coming.

Alternatively, they wouldn't be opposed to shutting the road down to thru traffic altogether when there is a hurricane.

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