I-4 accident

Four people, including 12-year-old Cassie Ann Gatcha of Clermont, died in a seven-vehicle accident on I-4 near Memorial Boulevard around 8 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol reports. Westbound I-4 was closed between Memorial and Kathleen Road until 1:14 p.m. More photos and updates below:

A chain reaction started when an eastbound Ford pickup truck clipped another vehicle, then crossed through a cable barrier into westbound lanes and flipped, ejecting and killing the driver, 22-year-old Dustin Wayne Toole of Haines City, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said.

A witness told Fox 13 News the Ford and another pickup truck were racing. (News Channel 8 talked with a driver who was only seconds behind the crash and thankful to be alive.)

Before Toole was ejected, his truck collided head-on with a Chevrolet van. which was then hit by a large truck, officials said. Both occupants of the van died; the driver was a 55-year-old man from Venezuela whose identity has not yet been released, and the passenger was Leonard Mathieu-Turallas, 59, of Alpharetta, Ga., officials said.

Meanwhile Toole’s Ford F250 went airborne after hitting the van, and its undercarriage hit a 2010 Nissan sedan driven by Elma Gatcha, 36, of Clermont, officials said. She was taken to  Lakeland Regional Health with serious injuries. Her 12-year-old passenger, Cassie Ann Gatcha, died at the scene.

[box]Latest update: 10:28 p.m.[/box]

Here is how the story unfolded today, seen through press releases and news reports:

FHP 9:10 p.m. News Release

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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