LEESBURG, Fla. – Three members of the same family, including a 13-year-old girl, died in a crash in Leesburg on Christmas Eve, authorities said.
The wreck happened at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of SR 44 (Dixie Avenue) and Dozier Court, according to the Leesburg Police Department.
An initial investigation revealed that a 2019 black Ram pickup, driven by 33-year-old Zachery Waldo of Mount Dora, was heading east on SR 44, approaching Dozier Court, police said.
A 2018 Toyota, driven by 44-year-old Christopher Smith, of Eustis, appears to have been traveling west on SR 44, making a left turn onto Dozier Court, according to police.
The front of the Ram collided with the right side of the Toyota in the intersection.
“It is unknown at this time which driver had the green light for right-of-way,” police said in a statement.
Waldo and his passenger, 33-year-old Kevin Cunningham of Tavares, were taken to the Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Smith and his front-seat passenger, 35-year-old Jessica Smith died at the scene.
Jessica Smith was a classification specialist with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
She joined the Sheriff’s Office in October of 2015 as a detention assistant and was promoted to classifications specialist in April of 2016.
“Jessica was a valued member of our law enforcement and detention family. Her spirit and presence will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jessica’s family, and we pray for a full recovery for her son.” said Sheriff Billy Woods.
Ocala Fire Rescue officials also released the following statement:
“Our deepest sympathies to the Smith and Marion County Sheriff’s Office families," the agency wrote on social media. "Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you through this trying time.”
The couple’s two children were also in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Their 13-year-old daughter died Christmas morning at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. Their 11-year-old son was also injured in the crash and taken to Arnold Palmer in unknown condition.
Traffic investigators are attempting to recover audio and video taken from the area at the time of the crash and interviewing potential witnesses. Any witnesses are asked to contract Leesburg police at 352-787-2121.
SR 44 was closed in both directions for about 6 ½ hours after the wreck.