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4 Victims Identified in Monday’s Fiery Crash – One Still Pending

BROOKSVILLE – Officials have released the identities of four of the five victims who perished in Monday’s fiery crash on Hwy 98 and Citrus Way.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Apolinar Nunez, 49, of Winter Haven, Jose Gomez, 53, of Winter Haven, Santos Vega, 47, of Bartow, and Guillermo Chavez, 24, of Plant City have been confirmed dead as a result of the crash. The identity of the fifth victim, a 48-year-old man from Bartow will not been released until Mexican authorities can contact family members.

The following statement was released by Wingate Communications and Electric out Winter Haven, where all five victims were employed.

“We are extremely saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost employees’ families at this time. The loss of five lives is a humbling and heart wrenching experience for all involved.  Wingate Communications is a family and we will grieve and work together as families do to get through tough times.  There is a memorial fund set up for donations to help support the lost employees’ seven minor children.  The Fund’s name is Wingate Communications Lost Employees Children’s Memorial Fund.  The fund is being set up on Go Fund Me and through MIDFLORIDA.  Donations can be made on the Go Fund Me Web site under the memorial’s name or a donation can be made to the fund through Direct Deposits and ACH transactions to MIDFLORIDA Routing Number 263179804.  Memorial Account Number 121914321.”


BROOKSVILLE – Fire Rescue is on the scene of an accident at the intersection of Hwy 98 and Citrus Way that has claimed the lives of 5 people.

Officials have not released a report at this time, but according to our sources a box truck loaded with an unknown substance collided with a pickup truck at that intersection.

One person was airlifted to a local trauma center with unknown injuries and a second trauma patient was transported by ground.

A hazmat unit is on the scene to determine the type of chemicals that have spilled.

We will bring more on this story as it develops.

UPDATE: 7/27/2015, 12:03 PM – The Florida Highway has confirmed 5 fatalities associated with the accident.

UPDATE 7/27/2015, 2:34 PM – FHP: At 10:30 AM this morning at the intersection of Citrus Way (CR-491) and Ponce De Leon Blvd (SR-700) a fatal traffic crash occurred.  FHP Troopers responded to the scene and have determined that a 2007 International single-unit box truck traveling southbound on Citrus Way failed to stop at the intersection of SR-700 which is controlled by stop signs and flashing red stop lights.  As the Box Truck continued into the intersection it collided with a 2006 Chevrolet pickup towing a utility trailer which was traveling westbound on SR-700.  Post-impact, the Chevy pickup caught fire and burned intensely.  Five occupants of the pickup sustained fatal injuries and expired at the scene of the crash.  Two occupants of the box truck sustained serious injuries and were airlifted to area hospitals.  FHP Troopers continue to investigate this crash and motorists are ask to avoid the area for the next several hours.  The identities of the occupants of both vehicles will be released after they are officially identified and next-of-kin notification has been completed. This notification process will be delayed due to the fire damage to the victims.  More information will follow as it becomes available.

UPDATE: 7/27/2015, 2:36 PM – Assistant Chief Kevin Carroll of Hernando County Fire Rescue says, due to the large amount to transmission fluid, gear and motor oil that leaked into a drainage area, a HAZMAT Unit responded to assist in the cleanup.

UPDATE: 7/28/2015, 12:00 PM – The FHP has identified the driver of the box truck as 22-year-old Randy Escobar-Barrera of Tampa and his passenger as 41-year-old Ariel Baez also of Tampa. Escobar sustained minor injuries in the crash and was transported to Bayonet Point Hospital for treatment. Baez sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to Bayonet point, where his condition is unknown at this time.

The identities of the five male victims remain undisclosed due to the condition of the bodies. All five victims are from Winter Haven according to officials.

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  • We as living surviors have to speak up and speak out at every opportunity to remedy these accidents-waiting-to-happen. I will never quit telling my truthful stories to those who are willing to listen. I pray we can help the hurting by doing just this.
    A special thank you to Mark Kelly for his heart-felt reply to my previous comment. I know my son and your friend would appreciate you connecting with his mom. You are now my friend too and will visit his grave and tell him how much you cared with a blue flower from his friend Mark.

    Sunday, 2 August 2015, 7:20 am
  • So many fatalities at this intersection….will they ever put up a red/yellowgreen light??? Same concept with 476 and 41. How many ppl have to die?!!!!

    Friday, 31 July 2015, 10:53 pm
  • Mrs Andrews, the son you speak of , and I were really good friends in school for many years. I remember that day as if it was today. I came up on the accident moments after and that scene has never left my mind. I’m am so sorry for the loss of him

    Thursday, 30 July 2015, 7:03 pm
  • My sister and I were almost killed at that same intersection 20 years ago. At that time, there was passing allowed on the hill on 98 and a rock truck passed the vehicle behind us and plowed through passing it. We were headed north on 98 and was turning left on to 491. We were in a convertible, my sister was driving and I was holding my cocker spaniel, Doodle, in my lap. The car was totaled, the truck-driver was unhurt and the highway patrolman had to come to the hospital to get our account of the accident. To this day, I cannot understand why that road is so dangerous. Also my son, was killed on that same road going south in 1984. That change my family’s life forever. By the way, my son was passing on a curve behind a rock truck and there was passing allowed then before they added the truck route. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the highway patrol station is on 98 and all those things happened. We lived off 98 n. for 24 years, until 1998, my husband and I retired and moved and I’m so grateful that we were able to leave that highway. I just hate that so many accidents are still happening there on that highway

    Thursday, 30 July 2015, 6:16 am
    • Im so sorry for your loss. I couldnt imagine. I hope your retirement is going along wonderfully!

      Thursday, 27 August 2015, 11:47 am
  • So sad. Praying for all families affected by this terrible tragedy

    Thursday, 30 July 2015, 1:51 am
  • Thank you Tom.

    Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 8:58 pm
  • Very sad situation for all families involved. My prayers go out to all families involved

    Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 7:00 pm
    • Thank you for the prayers Mr. Heywood Im sure all the other family’s are thankful two of the five were our relatives God bless

      Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 11:53 pm

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