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I-75 SUV crash kills girl, 9

Traffic snarls on the highway, which was closed for four hours. Seven people were injured.

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published June 3, 2006


WESLEY CHAPEL - A 9-year-old girl was killed and seven people were injured Friday when a man lost control of his sport utility vehicle at the intersection of Interstate 75 and 275.

Jose Navedo, 33, was heading south in a 1999 Ford Expedition with seven passengers about 3 p.m. when he realized he was heading toward I-275 by mistake. He tried to steer back onto I-75 but lost control, police say.

"He collided with the guardrail that separates I-75 from 275," said Trooper Larry Coggins of the Florida Highway Patrol. "When he struck the guardrail, he began to rotate and overturn."

Driving next to Navedo was Keila Ramos, 24, of Tampa, who swerved her silver Honda Civic to avoid the careening Expedition.

She hit the cement barricades lining the highway, badly scraping the side of her car and smashing its front. The airbags deployed, lying limp in the car hours after the accident.

Ramos escaped with no injuries, Coggins said. But everyone in the Expedition was hospitalized.

Nine-year-old Chelsea Correa died at the scene. Coggins said she and 10-year-old Talia Correa and a boy, estimated between 7 and 10 years old, were not wearing seat belts. Talia and the boy were thrown from the Expedition.

An hour after the accident, a single sneaker lay on the rush-hour stretch of I-75. Nearer the wreckage of the green Expedition lay a pink mesh bag and two empty child safety seats.

A bloodstained white sheet, weighted by rocks, covered a small body.

Navedo, 1615 Spinning Wheel Circle in Wesley Chapel, could face charges, police said.

The other passengers in the car were Wendy Correa, 27; Wmani Navedo, 3; Nadiya Navedo, 1; and 4-week-old Adriel Navedo.

Helicopters took Talia and the unidentified boy to St. Joseph's Hospital and Wendy Correa to Tampa General Hospital. All three sustained serious injuries, Coggins said.

The others were sent to St. Joseph's by ambulance with minor injuries. Coggins said Jose Navedo's injuries were not life-threatening.

The crash closed I-75 for four hours. Traffic backed up for miles in the southbound lanes, as cars were redirected in a slow procession through I-275.

The northbound highway snarled, too, as drivers slowed to gaze at the wreck.

Road crews are widening that stretch of I-75, where concrete barriers still line the road. On Friday, small knots of workers gathered to witness the scene.

Times research editor John Martin and staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 3, 2006, 06:16:17]


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