Earlier this week, Vickie Hall collapsed at a Publix while paying for her groceries.
She said her legs gave out when she saw the cashier’s nametag read Hannah — the name of her 14-year-old daughter was killed during a hit-and-run accident in October while walking home with friends.
At a press conference Friday for Florida Hit-and-Run Awareness Month, Hall held a photo of her daughter smiling at the beach against her chest as Florida Highway Patrol officials spoke at the press conference on the importance of staying at the scene of a crash.
There has been a dramatic trend of an increase in hit-and-run crashes in Florida, said FHP spokesperson Lt. Patrick Riordan.
He said there were about 102,000 in 2017, 103,000 in 2018, and almost 105,000 in 2019.
Of the 105,000 crashes, 206 people died, Riordan said.
FHP flyers for the #StayAtTheSceneFL campaign were distributed at the FHP Station, located at 6300 NW 13th St. The flyers listed penalties of property damages, injuries and fatalities associated with fleeing an accident.
Four people were killed in pedestrian or cyclist related crashes in Alachua County in January alone — a number Gainesville Police Department spokesperson Jorge Campos said is higher than usual for the time of year.
Hit-and-run crashes are occurring at an alarming rate in Florida, said FHP Troop B Major William Tierney. Troop B includes nine counties: Columbia, Suwannee, Hamilton, Alachua, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, Lafayette and Marion.
In January, 16-year-old DJ Washington, 21-year-old Denise Griffiths, 45-year-old William Moore and an unnamed female cyclist were struck and killed in Alachua County. The driver who hit the cyclist has not been found and the victim’s family has not yet been notified, GPD spokesperson Jorge Campos said.
Tierney said leaving the scene of the crash “will only make things worse.” Under Florida law, he said drivers must stop immediately at the scene of a crash on both public and private roads.
He said it’s important for drivers involved in hit-and-run crashes to remain calm, remove their keys and get to a safe place before checking on other drivers and calling 911.
Corey Brown, father of Hannah Brown, cleared his throat and fought back tears as he expressed his thanks to the FHP for their help investigating his daughter’s case.
The hit-and-run driver, Brandon Holt of Waldo, was found and arrested by FHP eight days after the incident.
“It’s hard to find the right words for anybody,” Brown said. “I’m lost and a lot of people are lost.”
Riordan said experts with the troop “work diligently to factually conclude what occurred before, during and after a fatality crash” so applicable laws can be enforced.
He said the troop is very aware of the impact traffic fatality crashes have on families.
“Lives can be shattered when drivers fail to stop and help victims involved in a crash,” Riordan said.
Hall said the loss of her daughter affects her every day. She is already a grandmother and said she struggles with the fact that she won’t ever have any grandchildren from her daughter.
“I still wake up and I want to know why I can’t hug my daughter,” Hall said.
Contact Samia Lagmis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SLagmis.