Jesus Marti, 54, of Prestwick Drive in Riverview, has been identified as the driver of the truck that the sheriff’s office said left the scene of that accident. The truck is a 1998 Volvo Tractor with a 1983 Hardee Dump Trailer.
Marti and the truck were found in Mulberry around 8 a.m. this morning, although no charges have been filed yet, said Donna C. Wood, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
“He has not been arrested yet,” Wood said. “It’s an ongoing investigation.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is also using this tragic accident to highlight a simple fact, that the death could possibly have been prevented if the victim has been wearing a seat belt.
It’s a message, Wood said, that her office continuously tries to re-enforce.
“We say that as often as possible,” she said. “Seat belts saves lives. It’s important that everyone understands that.”
That’s particularly true, Wood said, during this business holiday travel season.
“Any precaution they can take to help ensure their own safety, they have to be doing that, and wearing their seat belt is one of them,” she said.
The crash occurred around 4:15 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15 on State Road 60, west of Lake Wales Road, in the town just south of Haines City off U.S. 27.
At that location in Lake Wales, there was a two vehicle collision involving a 2002 KIA Sportage SUV and the 1998 Volvo tractor. Before the vehicle was located by deputies in Mulberry today, it had been described by witnesses as a “dump style semi-tractor trailer truck,” the accident report notes.
Adam Walker, 33, of Frostproof, died at the scene. Also injured was 33-year-old Heath Whitaker, also of Frostproof, a passenger in the SUV.
Whitaker was originally transported to Lake Wales Hospital, but later transferred to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where he was listed today as being in serious condition.
As Wood noted, neither one of the SUV occupants was wearing a seat belt.
Through their investigation, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Homicide deputies determined that the SUV had been seen by witnesses earlier driving erratically between Bartow and Lake Wales.
As the SUV came into Lake Wales, traffic on SR 60 had become backed up for a train that was passing through. The Volvo tractor changed lanes, from the outside lane to the inside one, and that was when the SUV rear-ended the truck, then crashed into the guardrail. The Volvo fled the scene, the report notes. It’s not clear if Marti had been injured in the accident.
Wood said charges are pending in this on-going investigation. Anyone with information about this investigation is urged to call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.
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