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Riverview family 'devastated' after crash kills daughter, injures 5

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview family is devastated after a suspected drunken driver claimed the life of 5-year-old Lilly Mills and injured five other family members earlier this month.

"She was so smart. She knew every state in the U.S.," said great-grandmother Sharon Trapp. "She just knew everything."

The family had gone to a Brandon mall and was returning home when a pickup truck struck their van at U.S. 301 and Bloomingdale Avenue about 9:30 p.m. July 1.

All six occupants, including four children, were taken to Tampa General Hospital. Paul Mills, 29, and Audrey Mills, 7, were seriously injured. The driver of the van, Samantha Populin, 25, and passengers Sophia Mills, 2, and Kayla Mills, 10, received minor injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Lilly, who was sitting on the side of the van struck by the pickup, was removed from life support the next day, Trapp said.

The family had canceled the bodily harm portion of their auto insurance two days before the crash because they could no longer afford it, Trapp said.

Paul Mills sustained serious injuries to his neck and back and still can't feel the back of his head. He is currently unable to work.

Lilly's funeral is at 11 am. today at Serenity Meadows Funeral Home in Riverview. Those attending are encouraged to wear Lilly's favorite color, pink. A burial will follow at Serenity Meadows Memorial Park.

The driver of the pickup, Rolando Rojas, 52, of Tampa was driving on U.S. 301 when he tried to squeeze his truck between cars stopped at a light, the patrol said. His Ford sideswiped both cars before hitting the Mills' Chrysler van, which was turning onto Bloomingdale Avenue on a green light. The collision caused Rojas' truck to hit a fourth vehicle and overturn, troopers said.

Rojas faces charges of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI, four counts of DUI with property damage or injury and reckless driving with serious bodily injury. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Rojas remains in the Hillsborough County jail on $160,500 bail.

Biz Carson can be reached at ecarson@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

Riverview family 'devastated' after crash kills daughter, injures 5 07/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:43am]

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