WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) — The man with a long history of arrests whom authorities are seeking in a deadly car crash into a Florida day care center was the driver of the vehicle that fled the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said early Thursday.
The agency had previously called 26-year-old Robert Alex Corchado a “person of interest” in the Wednesday afternoon crash. On Thursday, spokeswoman Wanda Diaz said in a statement that Corchado — who has been arrested eight times since 2000 — was driving a Dodge Durango that struck a Toyota Solara convertible, which jumped a curb and smashed into the KinderCare building in the Orlando area. One girl died. Fourteen other people, mostly children, were injured. The convertible’s driver wasn’t injured.
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care’s playground. Several of those injured were carried out on stretchers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, parents could be seen waiting to pick up their children, and then clutching them in their arms as authorities escorted them to their vehicles.
Authorities said Wednesday that they were searching for Corchado, who they believed was heading to Orlando International Airport in an attempt to flee.
A man answered the phone for a number listed to Corchado and hung up when he was asked, “May I speak to Robert Corchado?”
Corchado’s most recent arrest, in December, was on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense attorney in that case, Jack Kaleita, didn’t return a phone call or email after business hours.
Department of Corrections records show Corchado has served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the crash an “absolute tragedy and disaster.”
Diaz said a girl died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, but she didn’t have any more details. One child at the hospital remained in critical condition Thursday, and three were in serious condition, spokeswoman Katie Dagenais said in an email.
In all, 13 people were hospitalized, including the girl who died from her injuries, and two others were treated at the scene, authorities said. Eleven of the injured were children, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue.
Several of the injured at the KinderCare building in Winter Park were reported to be in “very, very serious condition,” Diaz said.
The day care’s website says the center provides childcare and learning opportunities for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement saying, “As a grandfather of three young children, I can’t imagine losing such a precious life at such a young age. Today’s hit-and-run was an act of cowardice, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol are working closely with local law enforcement to bring those who caused this crash to justice.”