Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Hit and run on I-4 in Plant City leaves two dead

PLANT CITY — State troopers are searching for a driver who left the scene of a crash that left two dead on Interstate 4 early Wednesday, officials said.

The crash happened at about 6:10 a.m. on the westbound side of I-4 near Alexander Street, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

At that time, an unknown vehicle "aggressively" cut off a sport utility vehicle, causing driver Michael Anthony Bennett, 36, to lose control of the SUV in trying to avoid a crash, troopers said.

Bennett, who was with wife Letara Tenell Bennett, 32, steered into the emergency lane then over-corrected to the right, troopers said. The SUV then collided with a truck, driven by Carlos Manuel Santos, 44, of Kissimmee.

That crash sent the SUV back toward the median, where it flipped, ejecting the couple.

Michael Bennett was thrown over the median bridge wall and slid down the embankment to Alexander Street before emergency responders arrived. Letara Bennett landed on the highway.

Michael Bennett was rushed to South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City while Letara Bennett was taken to Tampa General.

Both died. Neither was wearing a seat belt, officials said.

Santos stopped his truck in the outside lane to wait for help. He was uninjured in the crash.

Investigators are still looking for the unknown vehicle, described as a dark-colored compact, involved in the crash.

Several lanes of westbound I-4 were blocked for three hours as troopers investigated and cleared the road. FHP reopened the lanes just before 9:30 a.m.

The FHP has asked witnesses to call them at (813) 631-4020.

Marissa Lang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

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