Lakeland crash kills 3

Roads shut down for over 8 hours

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LAKELAND, Fla. - Polk County Sheriff's Traffic deputies investigated a two-vehicle crash Sunday morning in Lakeland that resulted in three fatalities. 

According to deputies, around 2:40 a.m. on Sunday, a red 2006 Chrysler Sebring was stopped at the stop sign on Shepherd Road at the intersection with Coronet Road, in Lakeland.

Deputies said a witness in another vehicle was stopped at the stop sign on Coronet Road and as they began to move through the intersection, the Sebring began to move forward also.

The witness was forced off the road by a beige 2000 GMC pickup truck, which was heading at a high rate of speed going northbound on Coronet Road, said deputies.

The pickup truck collided with the Sebring sending both vehicles approximately 150 feet north through the intersection, and causing both vehicles to flip over onto their roofs.

Deputies said the at-fault driver of the GMC pickup truck was 21-year-old Edward Casey McCoy.

McCoy was transported to LRMC with several broken bones and they believe he may have been impaired and driving at a high rate of speed.  Deputies said McCoy was not wearing a seatbelt.

Deputies said 56-year-old Dorothy Operhall, 48-year-old Melina Helbig and 51-year-old Leonard Simmons were all killed in the accident.

Robert Helbig, Jr., 50, was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and is in critical condition, deputies said.

Deputies said all of the occupants of the Sebring were wearing their seat belts.  The occupants of the Sebring are related to each other – two of the people in the car are siblings (brother and sister) but at this time we are unclear which two.  The Helbigs were here visiting from Pennsylvania.  They were returning to the Operhall/Simmons home from the Hard Rock Café in Tampa when the crash occurred. 

Deputies said charges against McCoy are pending final toxicology results and the medical condition of the surviving victim.

The roadways were closed for approximately eight hours, and have been re-opened. 

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