VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Three people, including a brother and sister from Wisconsin, were killed and two children were injured Tuesday night in a wrong-way crash involving a man fleeing from officers on Interstate 95 in Volusia County, according to authorities.
The triple fatal crash happened around 7 p.m. on I-95 at Beville Road near Daytona Beach.
The crash involved an Orlando man driving a stolen vehicle out of Orange County. The 47-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died in a head-on crash with an SUV, the Florida Highway Patrol said. FHP Lt. Kim Montes said troopers are attempting to locate the driver’s next of kin before releasing his name.
According to state records, the man’s license was revoked in January 2000. Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said he was a “career criminal” who served eight state prison sentences and had an arrest record that’s 200 pages long.
The driver of the SUV, a 21-year-old Wisconsin man, and his 18-year-old sister, a front-seat passenger, also died in the crash, the FHP said.
Their 13-year-old brother, who was in the back seat of the SUV, suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital, troopers said. A 17-year-old girl who’s a cousin of the other victims in the SUV also suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to an FHP report. All four were wearing seat belts, the FHP said.
A letter from the Schools District of Omro, Wisconsin sent to families Wednesday identified the victims as, Domynick Milis, 21, and Danycka Milis, 18. Both were graduates from the school district in Winnebago County, Wisconsin.
The two teens who were injured are Kyley Larsen, 17, and Drake Milis, 13, according to a letter from the school district.
Chitwood said the victims had just visited Daytona International Speedway to see Christmas lights and they were following other family members in a separate vehicle to return to where they were staying, but the victims missed their exit.
Volusia County sheriff’s investigators said before the crash, a license plate reader in Flagler County alerted authorities to the vehicle. A Flagler deputy spotted the car in a Walmart parking lot but the suspect fled, turned off his lights, and got onto I-95.
Officials said once the man entered Volusia County, deputies from the county’s Sheriff’s Office gave pursuit. The Sheriff’s Office said the man made a U-turn on I-95 and deputies ended the pursuit and attempted to stop oncoming southbound traffic.
Deputies said the man then headed north in the southbound lanes and hit the SUV near exit 260A, likely driving over 100 mph.
“Alright, slamming on the breaks, he might be bailing out here. I think he just made a U-turn on 95. Southbound lane, blacked out on 95. Stop traffic, O’Connell. I can’t see him, guys. I heard a big bang, he might have crashed,” a deputy said over the span of about 30 seconds on the radio.
Both drivers and the 18-year-old woman were pronounced dead at the scene, the FHP said.
One surviving victim was airlifted to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the other was transported to Halifax Health.
“The first ones there cutting these kids out of the car and trying to do everything they can, this is gonna stay with a lot of people for a long time, but nothing compares to the family. It’s just so, so senseless that this murdering thug with no respect for the law, no respect for human life and he snuffed out these young people’s lives,” Chitwood said.
A family is grieving today after a tragedy last night. 2 innocent young lives lost in a head-on crash w/ a fleeing suspect in an armed carjacking. Can't imagine their grief in facing a loss this painful - but praying they find the strength they will need. More to come on this. pic.twitter.com/wyJPFFaTgd— Mike Chitwood (@SheriffChitwood) December 30, 2020
The sheriff said the deputies acted within department policy and called off the pursuit when it got too dangerous.
“We did everything that we could possibly humanly do,” Chitwood said. “Who in a million years, as long as I’ve been doing this, would think that somebody would slam their brakes on and make a crazy U-turn and go northbound in the southbound lanes of I-95?”
Chitwood said he was shocked that someone with the suspect’s lengthy criminal history had been allowed to walk free.
“I mean, the bottom line is (he was a) career criminal. He murdered two people. Those kids were murdered. It’s no different than if he took a gun and put it to their heads, what he did to those kids,” Chitwood said.
Had the victims not missed their exit, they likely would have avoided the crash, Chitwood said. Holding back tears at times, the sheriff said incidents like these are an unfortunate reminder of how tragedy can strike in an instant.
“Life is precious. Twenty-five yards, 25 yards difference. They make that exit, they’re alive. They missed that exit, they’re dead. Life is precious. This time of the year, every time of the year, you should maybe hold your family a little closer because some family’s not doing that tonight,” Chitwood said.