Relatives of hit-and-run victims aim to raise awareness
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- The South Florida families of hit-and-run victims decried the disturbing traffic trend, which, according to statistics, appears to be on the rise.
In 2012, there were 67,968 hit-and-run crashes in the state of Florida. Of those accidents, 166 involved a fatality.
In one of the more famous, recent cases, Karlie Tomica was only apprehended because a witness followed her from the scene where Miami Beach executive chef Stefano Riccioletti died Jan. 28. Sixty-three-year-old Dwight Morrison was struck and killed Saturday riding his bicycle in Davie, and police had to chase after his hit-and-run driver.
Accidents happen, but as Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky observed during a press conference, fewer drivers are stopping to determine the outcome. "Last year, Florida law enforcement agencies worked nearly 70,000 hit-and-run crashes in the state of Florida," he said. "Of those crashes, nearly 17,000 were injured and 166 people were killed," he continued.
The victims' loved ones agreed that, until the fugitive is caught and brought to justice, there can be no closure for them. "Today is the ninth anniversary of my daughter's death," said Jennifer Richards as she revealed a framed photograph of the victim.
Richards said that Rafael Torres, the driver police suspected of allegedly striking her daughter, has disappeared. "It's like he just vanished; they can't find him," she said.
For family members of Cristina Pokrajak, the driver who left the scene only made matters worse. "When I hear other people's stories, I keep on thinking everything I went through," said her sister-in-law Jennifer Klein. Jose A. Palomino, the young Hispanic male who police believe fled the scene of the accident, has not been caught.
Wysocky indicated that leaving the scene of an accident with injuries is not just immoral but also a felony. He listed the reasons drivers might feel compelled to abandon the scene. "They may be hearing-impaired, they may not have a driver's license, their license might be suspended, they may be here illegally [or] they may have warrants out for their arrest," he said.
Kevin Riddick narrated the circumstances behind his son's death. "Someone came and hit him and left him in a ditch and continued to go on. I would like closure, for myself as well as my family," he said.
If a driver who stays at the scene of an accident involving death, the penalty could be as low as a citation. If a driver flees the scene, however, the sentence could be as high as 30 years in state prison.
If you have any information on any of these hit-and-run accidents, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.
(Copyright 2013 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)