Winter Park, Florida – A car smashed into a day care center Wednesday near Orlando, Florida, killing a girl and injuring 14 others, at least a dozen of them children, officials said. Authorities were searching for the driver of the SUV that started the chain-reaction crash and then left the scene.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Wanda Diaz said a girl had died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Diaz didn’t have any more information on the girl.
One person at the hospital was in critical condition and five others were in serious condition, said spokeswoman Katie Dagenais.
In all, 13 people were hospitalized and two others were treated at the scene, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue.
Several of the injured at the KinderCare building in Winter Park were reported to be in “very, very serious condition,” Diaz said.
Diaz said the Toyota Solara convertible had gone out of control after it was struck by a Dodge Durango, jumped a curb and smashed into the day care center, breaking through the wall and into the building. That driver was not hurt.
The Durango left the scene but was located almost two hours later after it had been abandoned at a home. The highway patrol said it is looking for 26-year-old Robert Corchado, who has been arrested eight times since 2000, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Troopers said he was the driver of the Durango. Troopers said Corchado may be trying to leave the area, and troopers and deputies headed to Orlando International Airport to look for him.
“Please keep a lookout and let us know if you see anything,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.
Jacobs called the crash an “absolute tragedy and disaster.”
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs taken outside on the day care’s playground, and several of the injured were carried out on stretchers.
The highway patrol reported that the injured were taken to five hospitals.
Late Wednesday afternoon, parents could be seen waiting to pick up their children, clutching them in their arms as they were escorted to their vehicles by authorities.
The day care center provides child care and learning opportunities for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old and has been in the community for over 25 years.