POLK CITY, Fla. - A horrific wreck in the early morning hours closed a stretch of highway 33 north of Polk City for about six hours Tuesday morning.
A family of six traveling along Deen Still Road ran through a stop sign and went under a northbound semi truck. A mother and father and one of their children are dead and two other kids in critical condition at a hospital. But one child, the only one strapped in, is going to be okay.
In the few hours since the road was reopened, we have learned a lot about this very dangerous intersection that has seen more than its share of traffic accidents and fatalities.
For those who travel the stretch of highway, the accident Tuesday morning isn't a huge shock at all.
"It's gotten a lot worse," said Shaina O'Brien, who lives on Deen Still Road, and works just down SR 33 where it becomes Commonwealth Avenue.
By the time she made her way to work this morning, the wreck that closed Highway 33 was cleared up. All that remained was the markings from the investigation, and the sickening feeling that it happened again.
"There's at least a wreck out there once every couple of weeks, whether it be a minor little fender bender or a bad one like this one," she said. "There's always, always something."
The aftermath of this crash was horrifying. Investigators believe that a Buick, driven by 31-year-old Justin Sims, was traveling west on Deen Still Road just after midnight. For some reason, he never stopped at the two-way intersection along SR 33.
The car rammed right under a northbound semi truck. instantly killing the driver, his 28-year-old wife Sharonda and their five-year-old son Savion, who were all in the front seat.
In the back, three little girls were hurt. Seven-year-old Ariel and two-year-old Kitty were airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando in critical condition. Three-month-old Arienne, who was strapped in a car seat, is said to be in good condition after being transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
"People are in such a hurry," said Ms. O'Brien. "Everybody flies up and down 33 'cause it's a straight, wide-open road… something needs to be done."
This morning, something was done to fix the flashing red light that helps alert drivers to the two-way stop at a crossroads that seemingly comes out of nowhere, especially after the sun goes down and it becomes foggy, like it was Tuesday morning.
"It's dark out there…they say the light wasn't working last night," Shaina said. "They need to light it up more."
That light is now flashing its warning. But too little too late for the Sims family, who were heading to their Dade City home after shopping trip at the outlets near Orlando.
No charges have been filed in connection with the case and the investigation is continuing. Authorities say Mr. Sims was driving on a suspended license for failing to pay some traffic tickets.