LAKELAND — Family and friends were mourning Saturday the death of a Lakeland man and his three young children who were killed Friday evening in a single-car crash in Lake County.
Wilfredo Malave, 41, and his 9-year-old son, Zion Malave, died at the scene, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Phoenix Malave, 7, and Avaya Malave, 2, died later at Southlake Hospital in Clermont.
Malave was driving with the children to his Lakeland home from Lake County, where the children lived with their mother, Christina Malave, his brother-in-law, Adrian Deshazor, said.
Malave lost control and drove off the road at 6:45 p.m. Friday as he was heading south in his 2009 Mercedes sedan on State Road 33 where the two-lane road curves, FHP said.
The car crashed into trees and a pole, hit another tree and came to a stop, FHP said.
Troopers continue investigating and are awaiting toxicology results to determine if alcohol was a factor. Malave and all three children were wearing seat belts or child restraints.
Family and neighbors Saturday afternoon described the family as tight-knit and loving.
Deshazor said Malave originally was from New York and has lived in Polk County for 15 years. According to Malave's LinkedIn profile, he was a director of operations at a medical equipment company.
Deshazor, who is married to Malave's sister, said the three children spent most weekends with their father in Lakeland.
"They were good people," said neighbor Kirk Dawson. "It's beyond horrible." Added his wife, Lori: "I can't imagine what Christina is going through."