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UPDATE: Five Who Died in Fiery Hernando Crash Identified

Hernando Traffic Fatality | Fatal Crash | FHP

A memorial fund has been created to help support the seven children of those who died. Charges are pending from the incident, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

HERNANDO COUNTY –The Florida Highway Patrol has identified the five people who died Monday (July 27) when a truck failed to stop at an intersection.

Dead at the scene were Apolinar Nunez, 49, of Winter Haven, who was driving. Also dead were passengers Jose Gomez, 53, of Winter Haven; Santos Vega, 47, of Bartow; Guillermo Chavez, 24, of Plant City; and Felipe Cruz, 48, of Bartow.

Injured were the driver and passenger of the other vehicle: Randy Escobar-Barrera, 22, and Ariel Baez, 41, both of Tampa. Baez was airlifted to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point with serious injuries. Escobar-Barrera was taken to Bayonet Point with minor injuries.

All five of the deceased were employees of Wingate Communications and Electric, which issued the following statement:

“We are extremely saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost employees’ families at this time. The loss of five lives is a humbling and heart wrenching experience for all involved.  Wingate Communications is a family and we will grieve and work together as families do to get through tough times.  There is a memorial fund set up for donations to help support the lost employees’ seven minor children.  The Fund’s name is Wingate Communications Lost Employees Children’s Memorial Fund.  The fund is being set up on Go Fund Me and through MIDFLORIDA.  Donations can be made on the Go Fund Me Web site under the memorial’s name or a donation can be made to the fund through Direct Deposits and ACH transactions to MIDFLORIDA Routing Number 263179804.  Memorial Account Number 121914321.”

The FHP  said the accident happened about 10:30 a.m. Monday (July 27) at the intersection of Citrus Way (CR-491) and Ponce De Leon Blvd (SR-700).

FHP troopers responded to the scene and have determined that a 2007 International single-unit box truck driven by Escobar-Barrera was traveling southbound on Citrus Way when it failed to stop at the intersection of SR-700 which is controlled by stop signs and flashing red stop lights.  As the box truck continued into the intersection, it collided with a 2006 Chevrolet pickup towing a utility trailer driven by Nunez, which had been traveling westbound on SR-700.

After the impact, the Chevy pickup caught fire and burned intensely. The five occupants of the pickup sustained fatal injuries and died at the scene of the crash.  Two occupants of the box truck sustained serious injuries and were taken to area hospitals.

Charges are pending, according to the FHP.

For information about the FHP, see

Photo courtesy of the FHP.

Florida Highway Patrol | Hernando County | Traffic Fatality | TB Reporter

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