NewsRegion Hillsborough


Late night crash following family fishing trip kills one

Posted at 6:17 PM, Dec 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-16 14:53:04-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Authorities are investigating a late night crash that killed one person following a family fishing trip.

Joel Lopez Mendez, 26, was sitting in the last row of the Ford Expedition driven by his cousin when the vehicle struck a tree. Authorities say Mendez was restrained, but the impact of the crash killed him.

In addition to Mendez, deputies say his cousin's wife and two kids were also in the SUV. It happened after 12 a.m. when the family was returning home after a fishing trip.

The driver veered off the west side of the road and hit a mailbox, according to deputies. When he attempted to get back onto the roadway he lost control of the vehicle. It slid on the wet pavement and then crashed into a tree, deputies say.

Alcohol is not suspected to be a contributing factor.

The other passengers were taken to Tampa General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

ABC Action News spoke with Rosa Mendez. She said she was one of the passengers. Her husband was driving. She said they do not know how the crash happened.

Rosa Mendez spoke to ABC Action News in Spanish. She said she felt like she was tumbling in the SUV with her children. When the crash happened, she said she hugged her children and told them not be afraid because the crash was over.

Rosa Mendez said her husband does not stop crying since the crash. They said Joel Lopez Mendez was like a son to them. They described him as humble and as a person who worked hard. They said they are trying to find a way to get enough money so that he can be buried back home in Mexico.