Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection
MULBERRY — Crisis counselors were at Mulberry High School on Friday after three teenagers with connections to the Polk County school were in a Plant City crash Thursday that killed a brother and sister and critically injured their cousin, a senior who was scheduled to graduate that same evening.
The teens who died — brother and sister Pepe Salgado, 18, and Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15 — were passengers in a 2002 Toyota Corolla driven by Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, also of Mulberry. Nava-Marcos was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition.
"This is a very sad day for our school and community," Mulberry High principal Michael Young said Friday in a statement released through the Polk County school district. "We are mourning the loss of Frinzi and Pepe, and are praying for Edilberto as he remains in the hospital. Our hearts go out to their families."
The crash took place at 2:30 p.m., about five hours before Nava-Marcos was scheduled to graduate from Mulberry High School, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Frinzi Salgado-Diaz was a ninth grader at Mulberry High. Pepe Salgado had attended Mulberry middle and high schools and was a student at New Beginnings High School, a charter school in Polk County.
Here's how the school district described the three victims:
Frinzi as "a friend to everyone at Mulberry High" with a great smile, a positive attitude, a knack for working well with her classmates and a love for her agriculture class and for working with animals.
Pepe Salgado as a teen with a passion for soccer, a love for family, a good sense of humor, an outgoing personality and a determination for self-improvement.
Nava-Marcos as someone who was well-liked by peers for a bright smile, a respectful attitude and a hardworking attitude in class. He played for Mulberry High's soccer team this year.
Nava-Marcos was driving north on State Road 39 at Trapnell Road, about 12 miles northwest of Mulberry, when he turned left into the path of a southbound 2015 Honda Civic driven by Danisia Fontanez, 28, of Plant City, the highway patrol said. The Honda struck the passenger side of the Toyota that Nava-Marcos was driving, causing the Toyota to spin, flip and strike a third vehicle.
An earlier report from the highway patrol said incorrectly that the Toyota had run a red light.
Fontanez was not injured in the collision and her passengers received minor injuries. No one in the third vehicle was injured.
Salgado was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Salgado-Diaz died at the scene.
Polk school superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd plans to visit Nava-Marcos' family to offer her support.
"We are deeply saddened," Byrd said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the students' families. With this happening so suddenly, I want to respect the privacy of the families while they deal with this tragic incident."