OCALA, Fla. - A 3-year-old who wandered from his home early Friday was struck and critically injured in a hit-and-run crash, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Troopers said Jase Nichols, of Ocala, was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville after the crash, which was reported at 1:45 a.m. on NE Jacksonville Road near NE 77th Street.
According to the FHP, a witness saw the boy, who was bleeding and suffered leg injuries, in the middle of the road. The witness, identified as Cornelius Thomas, said he thought the boy had been struck by a car.
"At that time I am quite sure he already got hit," Thomas told News 6, adding he was afraid to move the injured child.
He said he called 911 and while he was on the phone with a dispatcher, another car, a gold-colored Chevrolet passenger vehicle, then drove by, and struck or drove over the boy. Thomas said he had to get out of the way to avoid being struck.
The driver of the vehicle, possibly a Malibu, stopped and looked at the boy before driving away, Thomas said.
"She turned around and pulled over," Thomas said. "I focused my attention on the kid and when the lights (came) on over the hill it was the police department and (when) I looked back she was gone."
Thomas described the driver of the Chevrolet as a woman in her 30s who had dirty blonde hair and wore glasses, the FHP said.
Authorities are now looking for the driver of the Chevrolet, hoping to speak with her.
"Whether the child is struck once or twice, we certainly would like to figure that out and find out if we (have) more than one vehicle that was involved in this," FHP Lt. Pat Riordan said.
The boy's mother showed up at the scene and was distraught, deputies said. She said she awakened to find her child missing, according to the sheriff's report.
Deputies said there were no signs of neglect, and the boy simply walked away from home while his mom was sleeping.
The child remains in critical condition, according to the FHP. The Department of Children and Families is also investigating.
Anyone with information about the driver or vehicle is asked to call the FHP at 800-387-1290 or Crime Stoppers of Marion County at 352-369-6880.
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