In the late afternoon of April 9, 2014, when the happy screams of children playing outside usually fill the warm Orlando breeze, an overwhelming somber tone took over a KinderCare child care center. Shortly after 3 pm, a rear-ended vehicle, driven by 61 year-old Albert Dean Campbell, crashed into the child care center, instantly putting young lives in grave danger. Within minutes, the local Orlando news team offered frequent updates, revealing that a driver, involved in the accident, was missing and injured children were transported to the hospital. Parents faced their worst nightmares as they waited from across the street, gazing at the gaping hole, next to the “Now Enrolling” sign, hoping they would receive an unscathed child not an escort to the hospital.
Within three hours of the horrific accident, local news reported that Campbell had no injuries, there were no fatalities to report, and that the driver, responsible for making Campbell lose control of his Toyota Solara convertible, was a known felon 28 year-old, Robert Corchado. Corchado, who had reportedly failed to slow down when Campbell was turning into the KinderCare center, had most recently been arrested for reckless driving. After crashing into Campbell, Corchado fled the scene and witnesses reported seeing him near the Orlando airport after renting a vehicle. As of next morning, four children of the 15 injured remained hospitalized and 4 year-old, Lily Quintus, passed away from the injuries she sustained in the accident.
Many parents felt relieved, if not lucky, considering the nature of the accident, but were also left feeling emotionally torn. As one mother explained, while holding her uninjured young son, “ I was scared to death…just petrified. It was heartbreaking, I didn’t know what to do and didn’t know if there was anything wrong with him. He’s my first child…it was extremely hard processing everything.”
Florida residents, who didn’t know the young victims, reached out by offering condolences and the promise that Corchado will be held accountable for the senseless and reckless crime he committed. “As a grandfather of three young children, I can’t imagine losing such a precious life at such a young age,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott, during a press release, “The hit-and-run was an act of cowardice, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol are working closely with local law enforcement to bring those who caused this crash to justice.”
Just days before the incident in Orlando, an Illinois woman was arrested and faces felony charges in connection to multiplehit-and-run accidents. 63 year-old, Annemarie T. O’Shaughnessy, led police on a chase after she had struck another vehicle, a motorized scooter, and a cyclist. While many hit-and-run drivers are reportedly under the influence of alcohol or another substance, O’Shaughnessy’s negligence stumped law enforcement when her initial toxicology reports came back negative.
During the same week, across the country, in San Jose, California, authorities were seeking answers and trying to capture the driver responsible for a hit-and-run accident that left a 26 year-old pedestrian, Daniel Campbell, fighting for his life. Campbell was struck, while crossing the street, during the early morning hours and died shortly after emergency responders and law enforcement arrived at the scene. There were no witnesses to the accident and investigators have no leads.
As one officer stated, “With the lack of evidence and no witness reports, we have very little to work with. Hit-and-run accidents are very serious and problematic in the city of San Jose. There were 26 pedestrians struck and killed in 2013. Motorists and pedestrians, alike, need to pay close attention and follow the rules of the road.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that hit-and-run crashes are on the rise. In the most recent crash data released, in 2009 a reported 1,274 fatal hit-and-run crashes occurred in the U.S. and by 2011, 1,449 fatal hit-and-run crashes occurred.
Watching the grizzly and shocking footage of a hit-and-run accident can leave any viewer wondering why anyone would or could attempt to flee the scene of the accident; investigators, victims, and family and friends of victims are left with those same questions every day. After an accident occurs, drivers are often in shock and may not be thinking clearly. As a result, some drivers flee while others stick around and face the consequences of their actions.
Many argue that whether or not someone stays at the scene of an accident has to do with one’s values. “There is a values problem. It really comes down to folks being left for dead on the side of the road by the person who is in the best position to call 911,” says Democrat Mike Gatto, who was vocal in making hit-and-run offenses tougher, “The legislature speaks for society’s values…by not doing anything (to act against hit-and-run accidents), we were failing from a values standpoint.”
Sara Solnick, a chairwoman of the Department of Economics at the University of Vermont, who has studied numerous hit-and-run accidents, believes that drivers face the “what to do” scenario. In most cases she studied, Solnick noticed that the drivers who chose to flee the scene fled in the hopes of avoiding more trouble. “Drivers, such as those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are driving without a license or are very young, are more likely to run if they feel there is a reason to do so.”
Each hit-and-run accident is different and drivers flee for any number of reasons, but the key to seeking justice for victims relies on eye-witness accounts. If you witness a hit-and-run accident or are involved in one, try to get an accurate description of the vehicle that fled the scene. Any details, but especially the license plate and other identifying characteristics, can help police find the driver more quickly.
While the authorities in Orlando have been unable to capture Corchado, witness accounts have helped them in their investigation. Jeezy Jenkins was working on a roof when he witnessed the hit-and-run accident and what he witnessed sums up what parents, staff, and responders felt at the horrific scene at KinderCare on that sunny afternoon.
“It was horrible. I’ve never seen nothing like that before…I hope I never have to see something like that again.”
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