POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A 13-year-old girl who deputies say was fatally struck by an unlicensed driver while riding her bike to school was known as a sweet, kind teenager who was just weeks away from celebrating her birthday.
Investigators said Mariana Perez Borroto was riding her bike around 7:50 a.m. to Lake Marion Creek Middle School in Kissimmee. Since the teen lived fewer than 2 miles from her school, she was ineligible for bus transportation.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the eighth-grader was hit by Micaela Coronel, 25, of Argentina, while the suspect was driving her Chrysler Town & Country minivan on Homosassa Road without a driver's license.
The teen was critically injured and was transported to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.
The victim died at the hospital, according to investigators.
Coronel was arrested on a charge of operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license causing death, which is a third-degree felony.
Rick Bowen lives next to Borroto and her father. He spoke on behalf of her father, who he said is too angry and distraught to speak at this time.
"Very sweet. Every time she would come over here, it's always so nice. She will be greatly missed," Bowen said. "The whole neighborhood is just, I don't know -- shocked, sorrow, mourning."
Deputies said Coronel told investigators she is in the country on a visitor pass from Argentina. She had an Argentinian identification card but didn't have a valid driver's license, the report said.
The suspect told investigators at the time of the crash, condensation covered about 80 percent of her windshield making it difficult for her to see, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office said other factors may have contributed to the crash.
“This suspect should not have even been behind the wheel of a vehicle. This is an awful, senseless tragedy that should never have occurred. This beautiful child should be turning 14 years old in just two weeks, but for this suspect's illegal actions, Mariana's family and friends are in our prayers," Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release.
Lake Marion Creek Middle School Principal Johna Jozwiak released a statement on the student’s death:
“Our hearts are broken today. We are devastated by the loss of a very special member of our Lake Marion Creek Middle family. Mariana was a bright and sweet-natured girl who possessed a very polite and calm manner. She enjoyed studying history and loved spending her free time sketching in notebooks. We are devastated by this tragic news. Counselors are available at school for students and staff members. We have also rescheduled the rest of this week's Florida Standards Assessments testing to next week."
Residents in the area of Homosassa Road have concerns about the lack of sidewalks in the area.
Bill Skelton works for Polk County and focuses his attention on the county's sidewalks.
He said the county has a budget of $2.3 million for sidewalk installation and repairs. Generally, his department receives 50-60 requests a year regarding to sidewalks.
Unfortunately, he said, the budget only affords the department to tackle 12-15 projects each year.
A request was made to have the area around Homosassa Road inspected.
Skelton said crews will try to get to the area around June and find the best ways to move forward depending on their studies.
As for Coronel, Judd said she will be placed in ICE's custody. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Once her time is served, Judd said ICE will work to have her deported.