WEST BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - An Andover woman is dead and 14 others are injured after an alleged drunk driver struck their van on the way back from a Spring Training baseball game.
Authorities in Broward County, Florida say Lauren VanReese was pronounced dead on the scene after she was ejected from the passenger van she was riding in when it rolled multiple times just after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. While accident reports list her age as 21, posts on VanReese's Facebook page indicate she is 18. Accident reconstructionists say she was not wearing a seatbelt.
A report from NBC affiliate WTVJ says a woman was pinned underneath the van until a Good Samaritan used a jack to lift it off her. Fourteen others were injured, including children as young as 4. Five of those had to be airlifted to a hospital.
The Florida Highway Patrol says all of the injured besides the alleged drunk driver are from Minnesota as well. They are:
- Steven L. Weinhold, age 42, of Ramsey, MN
- Paul White, age 49, of Andover, MN
- Mark Steuart, age 68, of Richville, MN
- Barbara Steuart, age 69, Richville, MN
- Rachel Kerr, age 45, Cohasset, MN
- Justin Kerr, age 14, Cohasset, MN
- Ryan Kerr, age 11, Cohasset, MN
- Laura Weinhold, age 43, Ramsey MN
- Brynn Weinhold, age 12, Ramsey, MN
- Blake Weinhold, age 10, Ramsey, MN
- Brooke Weinhold, age 4, Ramsey, MN
- Kimberly VanReese, age 50, Andover, MN
- Katie Topitzhofer, age 19, Ham Lake, MN
- Gabriella Rooney, age 19, Ham Lake, MN
Responding officers say the driver, 30-year-old Nisbany Surit Garcia, smelled strongly of alcohol and appeared impaired. He was arrested and appeared in court Thursday on charges of DUI causing death, and multiple charges of damage to property. Witnesses reported Surit Garcia driving recklessly and causing numerous close calls before the deadly incident.
Surit Garcia is currently in the U.S. on a work permit which expires in April. If he's found guilty of the charges, he will be deported back to Cuba after serving his sentence.
KARE 11's Zachary Lashway spoke with Joel Weinhold, who said he is the father of victim Steven Weinhold and grandfather to Brynn, Blake and Brooke Weinhold. Joel says that his daughter-in-law Laura Weinhold, Rachel Kerr and Kim VanReese are sisters and the families were on vacation together at the time of the crash.
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Joel Weinhold says Lauren VanReese was a college student, a pleasant young woman with a quick smile. His daughter-in-law Laura has undergone two surgeries for a broken neck.