The Florida Highway Patrol said a driver ran a stop sign in Riverview on Saturday night and smashed into the side of a car, killing a mother of two and critically injuring her 6-year-old son.
The crash left the woman's 5-year-old daughter, Jada Russell, in serious but stable condition. On Sunday, lying in her bed at Tampa General Hospital, the girl asked for her mother.
"I told her Mommy couldn't come right now," said Evelyn Allen, the girl's great-aunt.
Jacqueline Russell, 28, Jada and 6-year-old Troy Jr., were driving south on U.S. 301 about 9:15 Saturday night when the accident happened. Investigators said a 1978 Dodge driven by Steve G. Owings, 23, of Gibsonton ran a stop sign at Rodine Avenue and U.S. 301 and broadsided their 1997 Grand Am, causing it to flip three times.
Owings was listed in fair condition at Tampa General Hospital on Sunday. Florida Highway Patrol troopers have not filed charges. Owings could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Relatives said Jacqueline Russell was a giving person who volunteered at her kids' school, loved watching Jada's ballet classes and Troy Jr.'s T-ball games, and took care of her disabled mother. She also worked as a unit coordinator at Tampa General Hospital and wanted to be a registered nurse.
"She always took time out for her children," said Allen, the aunt who helped raise Jacqueline in west Tampa. "And their whole life is centered around her."
"She was just a real pleasant person," said her husband, Troy Russell Sr. "She really loved being a mother. Going for bike rides with kids in the neighborhood."
He took turns Sunday talking with his daughter and checking on his son's condition. Jada suffered two breaks in her collarbone. Troy Jr.'s brain was hemorrhaging, and doctors told Russell that if the little boy survives, he'll be severely brain damaged.
"And that's being optimistic," Russell said. "They say it's usually fatal with this severity."
At the hospital Sunday, he took comfort in the steady stream of his and his wife's co-workers and relatives who consoled him.
"They've really been here for us," he said. His family is coming down from Indiana, Russell said.
People who work with him at Tampa Electric Co., where he is an auxiliary operator, patted Russell on the shoulder. His shift commander stood by his side overnight and all morning.
A neighbor whose children play with the Russell kids said he heard the helicopter that airlifted Jacqueline Russell from the scene. He told Troy Russell that he once had a close call at the same intersection.
"I remember thinking, "Just five minutes later If I'd have left home five minutes later,' " said Jefferson Keith, who works with Troy Russell and lives next door.
Keith said he spoke with Jacqueline yesterday while her children played at his house.
"You just never know what's going to happen later on that day," he said.
Jacqueline Russell's aunt wondered aloud whether drivers who cause these kinds of accidents understand the harm they inflict.
"I don't know if people will ever learn what they're doing to families," Allen said.
"She was just an innocent person, always wanting to help other people. She loved life loved life," she said softly. "Mmm-hmm. Loved life."