Advertisement
  1. News

Girl killed in Plant City utility-vehicle crash was 'adventurous spirit'

A Facebook page was set up to help the family of Kailee Carter, 9, who was killed Saturday when she was thrown from a utility task vehicle in Plant City. [Facebook]
A Facebook page was set up to help the family of Kailee Carter, 9, who was killed Saturday when she was thrown from a utility task vehicle in Plant City. [Facebook]
Published Jun. 26

PLANT CITY — Kailee Carter enjoyed the thrill of a motorized off-roading machine.

The 9-year-old Plant City native "loved to get dirty and ride her 4-wheeler," her obituary says, an apparent reference to an all-terrain vehicle.

On Saturday, Kailee was killed when another type of off-road vehicle, a Can-Am Commander, overturned. Kailee, who was the passenger in the two-seat vehicle, was ejected. The driver, an 11-year-old girl, was injured.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has not released either girl's name, but friends have organized a Facebook fundraiser for Kailee's family and her obituary was posted online this week.

"Our Friends/Family lost their little girl in terrible tragedy Saturday," family friend Stephanie Raulerson, a co-organizer of the fundraiser, wrote on the Facebook page. "Any donations will greatly be appreciated to help them, they are a wonderful parents and this is a devastating tragedy and we are all still trying to wrap our minds around it all."

The crash happened about 8 p.m. on private property in the 6000 block of Varn Road, northwest of the city limits. The Sheriff's Office did not release an address. According to a preliminary case summary released by the Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office, a detective said Kailee was attending a "memorial party."

When the driver tried to turn the vehicle around, she lost control and it overturned. Neither girl was wearing a seatbelt, the Sheriff's Office said. Kailee was not wearing a helmet, according to the medical examiner's report.

Responding paramedics could not detect Kailee's heartbeat and she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at South Florida Baptist Hospital. The Medical Examiner determined she of died of skull fractures caused by blunt impact to the head.

The Can-Am Commander is in a class of machines known as utility task vehicles, or UTVs, because they're often used to haul materials and gear. They feature side-by-side bucket or bench seating and a steering wheel. An all-terrain vehicle, by contrast, has handlebars and a seat straddled by one or two riders.

The Commander features a two-cylinder engine that can reach speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour.

"They're not 12- to 15-mile-per hour golf carts," said John Havell, owner of Action Kawasaki Yamaha, a Bradenton dealership that sells Can-Am vehicles. "These are powerful machines."

The Commander comes in several models with two or four seats and features a roll cage to protect the occupants if the vehicle overturns. The operator's manual for a 2020 Commander states that operators should be at least 16 and always wear seat belts and other safety gear, including a helmet and eye protection.

The Commander also features side netting that the manual says should be fastened while the vehicle is in motion.

Florida law refers to vehicles like the Commander as "off-highway vehicles" but restrictions in the law apply only when the machines are operating on public lands.

Among these restrictions:

• Operators younger than 16 must be supervised by an adult, though the law does not specify whether that means an adult must be inside the vehicle.

• Operators younger than 16 must wear a helmet, eye protection and over-the-ankle boots and must carry a certificate showing they completed an approved off-highway vehicle safety course.

"As a dealer we would not be okay, whether it's private property or public property, with an 11-year-old driving one of these machines," Havell said. "We would absolutely not condone that."

Sheriff's officials "have no reason to believe" the girl driving the Commander will be criminally charged and no other charges are expected in the case, though the investigation remained active this week, said Crystal Clark, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Investigators "look into all of the circumstances surrounding the crash, including where the parents were at the time of the incident, before closing the case," Clark said.

Kailee was the daughter of Erin Carter, Britt Cox and Charles Carter, her obituary says. She had two siblings and attended Knights Elementary School. She loved to play softball, sing, dance and draw.

"Kailee enjoyed playing in the dirt and was an adventurous spirit," the obituary says.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than 200 donors had chipped in to raise more than $10,000 for the family, more than twice the original goal.

Daisey Pritchard, a co-organizer of the Facebook fundraiser and a friend of Erin Carter and Cox, declined to comment Wednesday and said the couple was not ready to talk. Charles Carter could not be reached.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Former FBI Director James Comey talks with "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, Sunday morning, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) [KEVIN WOLF  |  AP]
    The report did not find evidence for the most sensational of President Donald Trump’s claims, including that he had been wiretapped and illegally spied on.
  2. Trapped flower vendors are pulled out from a collapsed wall following an earthquake that struck Padada, Davao del Sur province, southern Philippines on Sunday. A strong quake jolted the southern Philippines on Sunday, causing a three-story building to collapse and prompting people to rush out of shopping malls, houses and other buildings in panic, officials said. (AP Photo/John Angelo Jomao-as) [JOHN ANGELO JOMAO-AS  |  AP]
    A child was killed when a wall of her house tumbled down as the ground shook and hit her in the head, officials said.
  3. This image made from undated video provided by Zola shows a scene of its advertisement. Under pressure from a conservative advocacy group, The Hallmark Channel has pulled the ads for wedding-planning website Zola that featured same-sex couples, including two brides kissing. The family-friendly network, which is in the midst of its heavily watched holiday programming, removed the ads because the controversy was a distraction, a spokesperson said in an interview on Saturday. (Zola via AP) [AP]
    The ad featured two brides kissing at the altar.
  4. In this image taken from Twitter feed of Climate activist Greta Thunberg, showing Thunberg sitting on the floor of a train surrounded by bags Saturday, with the comment “traveling on overcrowded trains through Germany. And I’m finally on my way home!”  The Tweet created a tweetstorm online Sunday about the performance of German railways, but the 16-year-old Swedish activist later sought to draw a line under the matter by tweeting that she eventually got a seat and that overcrowded trains are a good thing showing public transport is popular. (Twitter @GretaThunberg via AP) [@GRETATHUNBERG  |  AP]
    Time magazine’s Person of the Year doesn’t fly on planes because it’s considered harmful to the climate.
  5. Rendering of Encompass Health Corporation's planned 37,000-square-foot facility in Land O' Lakes [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on local businesses
  6. The victim in Friday's shooting at a Tampa police officer's home has been identified as 15-year-old Bradley Hulett of Lithia. Hulett is pictured here on the Facebook page of Operation Lotus, a Hillsborough County non-profit that supports families coping with tragedy and is raising money for Hulett's family. [Facebook]
    Bradley Hulett, 15, was described as sweet, intelligent and charismatic.
  7. A transient mother is facing three counts of felony child neglect after an officer found three children alone on a dilapidated bus early Saturday morning. [Gulfport Police Department]
    She has been charged with three counts of felony child neglect.
  8. Off-duty detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, 32, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning. A four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s office, Ricketts was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  HCSO]
    Detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.
  9. Jeremy Sutliff drags a freshly cut hop plant over to the harvesting machine at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Researchers are trying to make a variety of hops suitable to Florida’s climate.
  10. More than 1,300 summer and fall graduates were eligible to participate in the morning or afternoon commencement ceremonies Dec. 11 at the Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey campus. Approximately 345 degrees and certificates were conferred. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    Two ceremonies were held at the New Port Richey campus.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement