Monday, November 20, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg girl, 6, dies after crash in central Florida

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A 6-year-old St. Petersburg girl died this week after a tractor-trailer collided with her family's minivan in Osceola County, knocking it into a water-filled ditch.

Heidi Harris; her sister, Denise Harris, 10; and her mother, Luz Harris, 30, were seriously injured in the Monday wreck, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said.

After firefighters pulled the family from the water, they were taken to three different hospitals.

Heidi died Tuesday, according to the "Team Harris Family" Facebook page, which was covered Thursday with messages to the little girl with brown eyes and dark, curly hair.

"Little Mighty Heidi Ann Harris grew her angel wings tonight," a family member posted. "She fought until the end."

Her mother and sister showed signs of improvement Thursday, relatives wrote: They were talking and eating.

Family members could not be reached for further comment.

On Monday afternoon, troopers said the truck's driver, 29-year-old Yisnel Gonzalez of Miami, was behind the Harris' Toyota van when it slowed to make a left turn into a rural Osceola County driveway. Gonzalez braked and steered away but could not avoid hitting the van, according to the crash report. He was not injured.

The crash remained under investigation Thursday, troopers said.

Heidi loved animals, her father, Dennis Harris, wrote on Facebook — especially dogs. She wanted to be a K9 officer or zoo veterinarian, he wrote. Pictures show her wearing tiny pink Crocs and curly pigtails, hanging from a bar in a gymnastics gym and watching the giraffes at Busch Gardens.

"Cherish the moments you are with your loved ones and hold them tight," Dennis Harris wrote. "Tell them you love them. Go on adventures and make life fun. Get off the couch and enjoy the world. I miss you Heidi! I will always think of you."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

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