One teen killed, 6 others injured in Lake City crash

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

A 17-year-old girl was killed and six other teens injured Monday night when two trucks collided at an intersection in Lake City.

All seven attended Columbia High School.

Witnesses told Lake City Police Department investigators that a black 1991 Chevy pickup truck was headed north on U.S. 41 just before 9 p.m. when it entered the intersection with Southwest Malone Drive. At the same moment, a westbound green 2001 Ford truck entered the intersection.

The Chevy hit the Ford, spinning it and throwing out two teens who were sitting in the bed of the Chevy.

As the Ford spun, Czarra Howard-Mercado, 17, who was a passenger in the rear cab section, was ejected through the side window. She was not wearing a seat belt.

Lake City Police Officer Ivan Useche, who was nearby, heard the crash and arrived to find the two vehicles in the intersection and several teens lying in the roadway.

Off-duty LCPD Officer Mike Del Castillo and two off-duty Columbia County sheriff’s deputies also went to the scene and began rendering first aid.

Useche performed CPR on Howard-Mercado, and she regained consciousness before emergency personnel arrived, authorities said, but she died while en route to the Lake City Medical Center.

A 16-year-old male, who witnesses said was driving the Ford, was taken by LifeFlight to UF Health Shands Hospital. A 17-year-old male, who was driving the Chevy, was taken to UF Health Shands Lake Shore Hospital but was transferred to Shands in Gainesville after it was discovered he had a broken neck.

Three other teens were taken to Shands Lake Shore and Lake City Medical Center. One teen was taken to the hospital by family members.

All the teenagers were students at Columbia High, which held a prayer session on Tuesday morning for those involved in the crash.

Lake City Police spokesman Officer Mike Lee said Tuesday the agency would not be releasing the names of the injured teens because of their ages.

“Because they are juveniles and because they all go to the same school, we didn’t see the need to do that,” he said.

Lee added that the names would be released if any criminal charges are filed and when the final accident report is issued.

“The investigation into the crash will continue over the next several days,” Lake City Police Chief Argatha Gilmore said in a news release. Gilmore said that one of the two vehicles ran a red light, and investigators are working to determine which one.

“It is truly tragic that this type of crash occurred involving so many young children, and our traffic investigators are working diligently to uncover what exactly happened. In the meantime, our hearts and prayers go out to all involved and their families,” Gilmore said.

Lake City Police Traffic Homicide Investigators responded to the scene and were assisted by LCPD patrol officers, CCSO deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol. The intersection was shut down for nearly three hours.

Several of the teens were not wearing their seat belts. Blood samples were collected voluntarily from both drivers and submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis, the report said.

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