A family of four has died after striking a trailer that detached from a semi-truck on a Florida highway on a foggy St. Patrick’s Day morning.
The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating what caused a trailer hauling sugar cane to become detached from its tractor at approximately 5:55 a.m. Tuesday on U.S. Highway 27 at Mile Marker 64 in Palm Beach County, approximately seven miles south of South Bay.
One woman – 39-year-old Carolina Ortiz, and her three teenage children, Luis Arturo Varona, 17; Alejandro Varona, 16; and Melissa Carolina Varona, 14, all of Miami – were killed in the crash, which involved three other vehicles, including another tractor-trailer. Two other people were injured in the crash.
According to patrol Sgt. Mike Wysocky, all four vehicles were southbound on U.S. 27 when the trailer detached from a 1999 Freightliner driven by Roberto P. Rodriguez, 23, of West Palm Beach, Fla. According to reports, Rodriguez was an independent contractor working for Okeelanta Sugar Mill.
Wysocky said Rodriguez did not immediately realize the trailer had become detached from the truck and continued driving an unknown distance before returning to the scene after the crash.
Ortiz, who was driving a 2008 Ford Focus with her children and an unidentified male, attempted to avoid the trailer by swerving right but struck the right rear of the trailer with the left side of her car. Another tractor-trailer following behind Ortiz’s vehicle also attempted to avoid the trailer but struck Ortiz’s disabled vehicle instead. The trucker, 55-year-old Emad Said Daashoush, of Tampa, suffered minor injuries.
A third vehicle, a Ford F150 pickup driven by Douglas A. Brinker, 54 of Labelle, Fla., also hit the disabled trailer and ran off the road. Brinker was not injured in the crash.
The unidentified man in Ortiz’s vehicle was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was listed in critical condition as of Thursday.
Wysocky said the state’s commercial motor vehicle enforcement department is still investigating the cause of the crash.
“It’s just tragic,” he said. “It’s probably one of the worst wrecks I’ve seen, and I’ve been (with the patrol) for 34 years.”
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