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Baby daughter of Pasco firefighter dies from injuries she received in Friday collision

Clara Garcia, 5 months old, was secured in her car seat at the time of the four-vehicle crash. Her parents are recovering from their injuries.

LAND O’ LAKES — Clara Garcia, the 5-month-old daughter of a Pasco firefighter, died Sunday from injuries she received two days earlier during a collision in northern Hillsborough County.

Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin announced the infant’s death to reporters Tuesday morning at Fire Rescue headquarters.

“She was surrounded by her loving family and supported by the thousands that have to come to know her over the past few days,” Cassin said.

Firefighter Hunter Garcia, 23, his wife Kayla Garcia and their daughter were injured in the crash around 2 p.m. Friday on Van Dyke Road and Brown Road, east of Gunn Highway, according the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

It started when a vehicle ran a stop sign on Brown Road and collided with another vehicle headed east on Van Dyke Road, the Sheriff’s Office said. Four vehicles were involved.

The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the collision and no names other than the Garcia family’s were released. It was not clear who ran the stop sign.

Pasco firefighter Hunter Garcia and his wife, Kayla, and their 5-month-old daughter, Clara, were involved in a Hillsborough County crash Friday afternoon. Clara died from her injuries on Sunday. Hunter Garcia has been released from the hospital while his wife is still recovering. [Pasco County Fire Rescue]

The collision is still under investigation.

News video from the scene showed the silver SUV that carried the Garcias lying on its side.

It was a “very violent, high speed T-bone style crash,” Cassin said.

Garcia is believed to have been at the wheel of the family vehicle, said Fire Rescue spokesman Corey Dierdorff. He was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa on Monday night after undergoing treatment for head injuries.

Garcia has been working at Pasco County Fire Rescue for just under two years. He is assigned to Pasco County Fire Rescue Station 11 in Port Richey,

Kayla Garcia is confined to a bed after suffering spinal cord and pelvic fractures, Dierdorff said. She is undergoing physical therapy.

Clara Garcia, the couple’s only child, was properly secured in her car seat, Dierdorff said. Her fatal injuries may have been caused by something in the car or debris from the crash, he said. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine a cause of death.

There will be a public funeral for the girl and a date will be set once her mother is able to attend, Dierdorff said.

When Chief Cassin first visited Garcia in the hospital, the firefighter expressed concern about getting his shifts covered.

Pasco County Professional Firefighters Local 4420 Union President John-Michael Morin (left) and Pasco County Fire Cheif Scott Cassin (right) announce Tuesday morning that Clara Garcia, the 5-month-old daughter of a Pasco firefighter Hunter Garcia, died two days after the family was in a Hillsborough County crash. [PAIGE FRY | Paige Fry]

That showed his dedication to the job, Cassin said, but also showed that — in the hours just after the crash — he may still have been suffering from shock.

Other firefighters have volunteered to take Garcia’s shifts through Thanksgiving Day, Cassin said.

If it helps, Fire Rescue has offered to help move the couple from their second-story apartment.

Mental health services will also be provided to the family, said John-Michael Morin, president of Pasco County Professional Firefighters Local 4420.

The Garcia girl’s funeral will be paid for by the Firefighters Charities of Pasco.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a few incidents in the recent years," Cassin said, “where we’ve done this very same thing, and each time it’s just amazing the outpouring of what our guys will do.”


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