More than a hundred people attended a vigil organized by the Pasco Car and Bike Meets to pay their respects to five people killed in a horrific crash Wednesday night on MLK approaching Coconut Palm Drive.
Many of the members who attended the vigil were friends with Pablo Cortes III. He is the driver Florida Highway Patrol investigators said was driving too fast, lost control, and caused a four car crash that killed himself, his passenger Jolie Bartolome, and three other people.
A total of three people survived the crash with serious injuries and were transported to Tampa General Hospital.
“I knew him as a kind, funny, compassionate guy, he made a mistake,” Jacqueline Harris said. “It definitely is a huge eye-opener for all of us that we can be stupid sometimes. We need to take a step back and see what we lost here, a dear friend, a mother, her young children, a 19 year old girl. A lot of lives were lost and it could've been avoided.”
There are car meet up groups across the Bay area. Some groups meet once a week, others more often. Harris said she has been defending her car meet up group ever since news broke that Cortes, who was driving home from a different meet up, was speeding and caused the chain reaction crash.
“We do not encourage street racing. We do not encourage reckless behavior, we tell everyone be safe,” Harris said.
Three adults and two children died in the crash. The ages of the victims range from 9-years-old to 39-years-old.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Cortes, 22, of Brandon, was driving a VW Golf with Jolie Bartolome, 19, of Lithia, in the passenger seat. They were traveling westbound on MLK approaching Coconut Palm Drive. At the same time, three other vehicles were traveling eastbound on MLK, approaching Coconut Palm Drive.
For an unknown reason, Cortes lost control of his vehicle and crossed over the median and collided nearly head-on with a Toyota Sienna minivan driven by Marianela Murillo. The minivan caught fire after the impact.
The VW Golf spun and collided with a Toyota Scion driven by Carla Marie Wyman. Debris from the crash struck a BMW 3-series driven by Jamie Javier Ramirez Reye.
Murillo, 39, of Tampa, had four passengers in the minivan at the time of the crash: John Bernal, 9; Isabel Bernal, 10; Luisa Louisa, 15; and Lina Bernal, 18. Murillo died at the scene of the crash and John Bernal and Isabel Bernal died at Tampa General Hospital.
Cortes and Bartolome also died at the scene of the crash.
Luisa Louisa and Lina Bernal were taken to Tampa General Hospital, where they were listed in critical condition Thursday.