A 6-year-old girl had to be pulled from a truck partially submerged in Lake Wire on Christmas Eve after her father, who was allegedly fleeing from a hit and run accident, was speeding on Bay Street and failed to turn onto Lake Wire Drive, witnesses said.

Several people at Swan Brewing witnessed the 6:30 p.m. accident and called 9-1-1. 

Clinton Eric Bishop, 44, of Tampa, is facing charges of reckless driving, assault on a law enforcement officer, and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

Two witnesses told police that they saw the truck driving at “an extreme rate of speed” west on Bay Street, by the Lake Wire Inn. They said that as he approached the curve to turn south on Lake Wire Drive, he lost control of the vehicle, causing the truck to go into an uncontrolled spin and wind up in the lake.

One woman, Elora Friar, waded into the lake in frigid water and pulled the girl to safety. Friar, a 2014 graduate of Lakeland High School, is on vacation from medical school and could not be reached for comment. She told her mother, Natalie Oldenkamp, that the little girl was calm, but was concerned about her toy – a stuffed snake.

When Lakeland Police Officer Tony Stephens arrived, Bishop, who made it out of the submerged truck, became belligerent.

Clinton Eric Bishop

“While asking him about the accident, he continuously ignored my questions and mocked what I was saying to him,” Stephens wrote in his report, adding that he could smell alcohol on Bishop’s breath. “While speaking with the defendant more about the crash, he became upset and began to approach me aggressively with both his fists clenched as if he was going to strike me. Due to his act, which created a well-founded fear to me that I was going to be struck, I placed my hand on the defendant’s chest and pushed him away from me in an attempt to create distance, as he was aggressively charging at me.”

Stephens put Bishop in handcuffs and placed him under arrest.

The original accident that Bishop reportedy was fleeing took place on George Jenkins Boulevard. No other details were provided in arrest and jail reports.

According to court records, Bishop was convicted in 2013 for driving under the influence of alcohol. His breathalyzer results in 2013 came back as .157, nearly twice the legal limit. In 2019, his now ex-wife was granted a temporary restraining order. He also had to undergo parenting classes as part of his divorce in 2020.

Bishop was booked into the Polk County Jail after midnight on Christmas and bonded out the same day.

The girl’s mother said the girl is traumatized, but is physically fine.

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Kimberly C. Moore

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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