Advertisement

Tampa driver, 18, arrested in Arcadia daycare crash that killed girl, 4

Kiara Rishelle Morant was driving a Jeep Cherokee when she plowed through a fence into a playground and struck two girls, killing one and injuring the other, the Highway Patrol said.
Maleena Valdez, 4, was killed when a vehicle plowed into her day care center in Arcadia, troopers said.
Maleena Valdez, 4, was killed when a vehicle plowed into her day care center in Arcadia, troopers said. [ GoFundMe ]
Published Mar. 18, 2022|Updated Mar. 18, 2022

ARCADIA — An 18-year-old woman drove through a fence and into a daycare center playground Wednesday, striking two girls and fatally injuring one of them, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Kiara Rishelle Morant was arrested on a charge of driving without a license in the 4:30 p.m. crash at the Imagination Station Learning Center, 726 East Magnolia St. in Arcadia.

An arrest report lists Morant’s home and work addresses as Arcadia but her driver’s license, no longer valid, has a Tampa address, the Highway Patrol said.

Maleena Valdez, 4, was killed in the crash, according to a GoFundMe account set up to help her mother Savannah Valdez with funeral and other expenses.

Kiara Morant, 18, faces charges including driving without a valid license in the death of a 4-year-old girl.
Kiara Morant, 18, faces charges including driving without a valid license in the death of a 4-year-old girl. [ DeSoto County Sheriff's Office ]

Morant was driving a Jeep Cherokee east on Magnolia Street approaching Mills Avenue when she left the two-lane road, rolled over a curb, hit a street sign, crossed a sidewalk then crashed through a chain-link fence, metal post and wooden support post, the Highway Patrol said.

The Jeep kept moving, striking several other wooden support posts and playground equipment and hitting the Valdez girl and another girl, 5. The Valdez girl was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died. The 5-year-old was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. Morant, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was treated at for minor injuries and arrested.

The crash remains under investigation, the Highway Patrol said.

Maleena Valdez, according to the GoFundMe page, “was a sassy, kind, funny little girl who loved her big sissy and mommy and daddy more than anything in this world! Maleena was so innocent and pure hearted! She still had so much life to live!”

She is survived by her mother, father Miguel and sister Jazziah, the GoFundMe page said.

At mid-day Friday, the campaign had raised $17,825 of its $25,000 goal.