Driver in deadly Florida day care crash in custody
WINTER PARK, Florida (AP) — A manhunt across Florida ended Thursday with the surrender of a driver blamed in a deadly crash at a day care facility that injured 14 and killed a 4-year-old girl who was sitting in a classroom awaiting her afternoon snack.
Robert Alex Corchado turned himself in and was charged with leaving the scene of a deadly accident almost precisely 24 hours after the KinderCare facility was torn open in the wreck. He was being held on $100,000 bond, said the Orange County Corrections Department. His attorney confirmed his client turned himself in but refused further comment.
“He had nowhere to go,” said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Wanda Diaz.
Police say Corchado, 28, crashed his Dodge Durango into a convertible, which in turn smashed into the KinderCare building. Authorities pleaded for the suspect to give up, even as they blanketed the state searching for him. Nicole Quintus, whose daughter, Lily, was killed, joined the pleas.
“Families are emotionally destroyed because of what he did,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The mother softly sobbed as she spoke of her daughter. She said Lily loved princesses, “Star Wars,” the TV series “Doctor Who” and ranch dressing on seemingly everything she ate — even pizza and hot dogs. Lily was sitting at a table waiting for her afternoon snack when the car crashed into the building, and Nicole Quintus said a teacher called her soon after, screaming but unable to say what happened.
“One minute everything was normal and the next there was an explosion and smoke and screams,” she said.
The girl’s 7-year-old brother is an aspiring engineer who wants to design a time machine to bring Lily back, the mother added.
“She was beautiful and passionate and innocent,” the mother said, “and she deserved so much more.”
Lily was on the minds of those who turned up at the day care, where the gaping hole was boarded up with plywood and a cluster of stuffed animals, flowers and candles were left in memoriam.
Ralph Velez, 48, left a stuffed bear from his 5-year-old son Xavier, who goes to the day care but was unhurt. The bear was a gift from a few Christmases ago, and Xavier — who can’t stop talking about the crash — wanted to give it to honor his friends, Velez said.
“He’ll say, ‘stupid car,’ or ‘stupid driver,’” Velez said. “He told us last night that he remembers the driver, who wasn’t hurt, getting out and saying, ‘What did I do? What did I do?’”
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care’s playground Wednesday. Several of those injured were carried out on stretchers. Parents were later seen waiting to pick up their children, then clutching them in their arms as authorities escorted them to their vehicles.
Corchado has been arrested eight times since 2000.
Department of Corrections records show he served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion. He most recently was arrested in December on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was due back in court in May.
A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Corchado hung up. Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Cindy Williams said Corchado was linked with the Latin Kings gang and could have been aided by other members.
Ten people remain hospitalized from the crash, including one child who remains in critical condition and two others who are listed in serious condition, according to the patrol.
The day care’s website says the center provides childcare for children up to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.
Sedensky reported from West Palm Beach, Florida.