The children’s father, Sandeep Beri, 57, was killed in the deadly head-on collision, just seven months after they lost their mother to cancer, reported WFLA.
While Beri was teaching his teenage son Nick to drive on July 7, their PT Cruiser was hit just before 12 p.m. by a vehicle driven by 22-year-old Nannette Cruz Garcia.
Beri was in the passenger seat at the time of the accident, while the 7-year old was in the back.
Nick and his younger sister Sophia are currently in hospital where they remain in a stable condition, reported Fox 11. The 7-year-old was airlifted to hospital following the accident with complaints of overall body pain.
Garcia on July 8 remained in critical condition, but is expected to recover, according to reports.
According to the sheriff’s office, the 22-year-old’s 2003 Toyota Corolla collided with the family’s PT Cruiser after it swerved over a raised median while she was traveling on Cypress Gardens Boulevard.
Beri was sadly pronounced dead at Lakeland Regional Health.
In a post on the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, Sheriff Grady Judd said, “I was at the scene this afternoon—this was just a devastating crash.”
“It is a reminder for all of us to drive safely and remain aware of our surroundings while driving. Our sympathies and prayers go out to the Beri family for their loss.”
“All of these fatal crashes are heartbreaking but this makes it exceptionally bad,” he told WFLA.
“This scene was absolutely horrific. The two cars hit head-on and exploded.”
Garcia was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the collision, investigators found. Meanwhile, all three family members in the other vehicle had their seat belt fastened.
Investigators also determined Nick was not at fault, and had a learner’s permit, reported Fox 11.
Sheriff Judd told WFLA: “There is zero indication that he did anything but appropriately operate that motor vehicle. He was driving according to the rules.”
Judd said Nick wouldn’t have had enough time to avoid Garcia’s vehicle.
“It wasn’t seconds. It was probably fractions of a second that she went from her lane of travel head-on into the vehicle,” he said.
Beri’s neighbor, Andrew Campbell, spoke of his shock and told WFLA he remembered the father for his friendly and hospitable personality.
“Every time I came out I would always get a wave and everything. When I first moved in here at the end of 2017, he was the first one who came over, and he offered us water and everything,” he recalled.
“It has been shock in the neighborhood because no one expected this to happen.”
“Sometimes these accidents and injuries carry on for a long time, emotionally or physically. I just hope they get better and come out the other side somehow,” Campbell added.
Sarah and Jarrad Pollitt, who reportedly witnessed the crash, said the boy was just learning how to drive with his family.
“He was probably nervous already and then this happens, caused by someone else. It’s heartbreaking for all,” they told Patch.
As the incident is still under investigation, the reason why Garcia crossed over the Cypress Gardens Boulevard and into oncoming traffic is still unclear.
By the afternoon of July 8, investigators had been unable to speak with Garcia, as she recovered from her injuries.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office urges individuals who witnessed the collision to get in touch on 863-298-6200.
Spike in Teen Driving Accidents
As the end of the academic year approaches, law enforcement and AAA have warned there may be a sudden surge in teen driving accidents.
One in six crashes involving young people are caused by distractions, such as phones and even other passengers, AAA officials said, reported WBNS.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it is estimated that the likelihood of fatal teen crashes increases by 17 percent.
AAA spokeswoman, Kara Hitchens, said teens are more likely to drive recklessly during the summer months.
“They aren’t driving to school or to work as much,” she said.“They have more free time and may drive more recklessly.”