WINTER PARK, Fla. — As mourners trickled by today to honor the 4-year-old girl who was killed and 14 others injured in a crash at a Florida daycare center, authorities scoured the state for the driver they said fled in the vehicle that caused the fatal wreck.
Police agencies statewide were alerted to look for Robert Alex Corchado, 26, accused of sparking the incident when his Dodge Durango hit a convertible, which smashed into the KinderCare building, according to the Florida Highway Patrol said.
“We still haven’t found him,” Sgt. Kim Montes of the Highway Patrol said. “He’s had quite some time now. We don’t know. We hope he’s still in state, but we don’t know for sure. We’re hoping we can catch him.”
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Montes identified the girl who was killed as 4-year-old Lily Quintus. She was on the minds of those who turned up at the daycare, where the gaping hole was boarded up with plywood and a cluster of stuffed animals, flowers and candles were left in memoriam.
Ralph Velez, 48, left a stuffed bear from his 5-year-old son Xavier, who goes to the daycare but was unhurt. The bear was a gift from a few Christmases ago, and Xavier — who can’t stop talking about the crash — wanted to give it to honor his friends, Velez said.
“He’ll say, ‘stupid car,’ or ‘stupid driver,’” Velez said. “He told us last night that he remembers the driver getting out and saying, ‘What did I do? What did I do?’”
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care’s playground in the Wednesday incident. Several of those injured were carried out on stretchers. Parents were later seen waiting to pick up their children, then clutching them in their arms as authorities escorted them to their vehicles.
Corchado has a long criminal record, with eight arrests since 2000. Department of Corrections records show that Corchado has served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion. He most recently was arrested in December on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was due back in court in May.
An attorney representing Corchado in that case, Jack Kaleita, did not return a call today seeking comment. A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Corchado hung up.
In all, 13 people were hospitalized and two others were treated at the scene, authorities said. Eleven of the injured were children, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue. Besides Quintus, seven victims were brought to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where one remained in critical condition today and two in serious condition.
The day care’s website says the center provides childcare and learning opportunities for children up to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.