Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Public safety

Three in Dade City family killed in Polk County crash

POLK CITY

Four honks of the car horn made Patrice Davis look over from where she was parked at a stoplight on U.S. 301 Monday afternoon.

There was her neighbor, Justin Sims, with his whole family loaded into his white 1998 Buick Century across the intersection, waving to her.

"Where you going?" she called.

He put his hands up, teasing. "We'll get you next time," he told her.

Davis recalled the encounter Tuesday morning while she sat on a friend's front porch, crumpling a tissue in her hand. "But there won't be a next time."

Sims, 31, was at the wheel late Monday night when the Buick ran a stop sign and collided with the trailer of a 1999 semitrailer truck at State Road 33 and Deen Still Road in Polk City, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. On impact, the car was lodged under the trailer and dragged about 400 feet.

Sims, his 28-year-old wife, Sharonda, and their 5-year-old son Savion, were in the front seats of the car, the Sheriff's Office said.

All three were killed.

The couple had three more children in the back seat. Their daughters, Ariel, 7, and Kitty, 2, were both flown to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando with critical injuries, deputies said. Their 3-month-old daughter, Arienne, was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening. She is staying with the Department of Children and Families.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer said the baby was restrained in her car seat, but none of the other children or parents was wearing a seat belt.

Deputies said the family had been shopping at an outlet mall in Orlando and was on the way back to their home on Acorn Loop in Dade City.

Records show Sims' driver's license was suspended last year for failure to pay traffic fines.

The truck driver, Antonio Garcia, 31, of Tampa was wearing his seat belt. He was not hurt.

No charges are pending, Eleazer said. Investigators are still trying to find exactly what factored into the crash.

They do know that the red flashing light above the stop sign that's meant to alert drivers approaching the intersection was not working Monday night, said Polk Sheriff Grady Judd in a news conference Tuesday. The light was promptly replaced by county traffic workers before the road was reopened.

"Looks like a straight, long road if you're looking past the stop sign," Judd said.

The intersection sits in a remote area of the Green Swamp where fog banks are known to drift overnight. Authorities were looking at whether fog obscured the road at the time of the crash.

• • •

Justin Sims was from New York state. He once served in the U.S. Army's intelligence operations. His father, the Rev. Nathaniel Sims, is a well-known minister in Dade City and pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church on Seventh Street.

Sharonda Sims was from New Jersey, neighbors said. Last May, the family moved into a section of Dade Oaks Apartments where neighbors watch over one another's children, big meals are shared and the people refer to themselves as a family.

"If anything happens to one of us, it affects all of us," said neighbor Lisa Devermann.

She remembers last year when a custody agreement left her without her children on Mother's Day. Sharonda brought her a butterfly trinket and invited her to a dinner that Justin had cooked on his grill.

His cooking became a staple in the apartments that all face one another surrounding a parking lot, remembers Ethel Gray. Sims made burgers, brisket and ribs and invited neighbors to partake with a simple, "You hungry?"

Neighbors said Sims was known to dote on his wife, especially when she was pregnant with Arienne. Savion, the curious 5-year-old, had questions for everyone on every subject.

"When I say happy spirits," said Tiffany Hammond, who lives in the apartments, "I mean they were truly happy people."

After hearing the news, Sims' father drove to the Orlando hospital to watch over his grandchildren. Tuesday afternoon, Ariel was in surgery. He waited for word on her condition.

He said he'd been to see Kitty, who was "coming along," and expected to recover.

The Ledger contributed to this report. Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

 
Comments

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY — The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang.Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton is th...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Man shot, runs for help to Bahama Breeze with suspects following

TAMPA — Attackers shot a Tampa man Monday night as he sat in his car then chased him as he fled to a nearby restaurant to get help, Tampa police said.The victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.The incident occurre...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Man pistol-whipped resisting home invasion in Wimauma

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office is looking for three men who broke into a Wimauma mobile home Tuesday morning, beat one of the residents with a pistol, stole cash and carjacked a vehicle to make their getaway.The incident occurred around 5:4...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

By Zachary T. SampsonTimes Staff WriterLong before a shuttle ship from Tropical Breeze Casino caught fire Sunday off the coast of Port Richey, leaving one passenger dead, the company behind the operation was a source of controversy.The casino operato...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Heartbreak and jealously were the twin engines driving the scheme, police would later say. Ishnar Marie Lopez-Ramos was in love. The object of the 35-year-old Floridian’s affection, however, was tangled up with another woman. To solve her hear...
Published: 01/16/18

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Published: 01/16/18

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Published: 01/16/18
Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

TAMPA — Shortly before Christmas, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s pilot Jason Doyle was flying a department helicopter over east Hillsborough when he saw the lights of a drone. It was about 800 feet below him and a half-mile away, and quite bright, sai...
Published: 01/16/18