When I started dating my wife, I was a volunteer firefighter and photographer so she was used to me responding to calls and taking photos of sometimes horrible things. Sometimes we would be out together and I would hear a call on the police scanner. Not being able to resist we would go and i’d shoot it. I know I know.. how romantic. But she was used to it and I have opened her eyes to a perspective that not many people see. She has have a chance to witness first hand a lot of the real crime and sadness that is in our community everyday.
The other night I was home getting ready for an early morning assignment in Ocala, it was a 200 mile round trip and I needed to be there at 9:00am. I was in the process of packing my gear when I got a message from a fellow photographer and scanner nerd(like myself)…
The message read: Multi car MVA, one car on fire with possible entrapments.
I turned on my scanners and heard the chaos on the scene. It was madness, deputies yelling that a vehicle is fully involved with fire and multiple people trapped inside!!
Moments later the HCFR Shift Commander arrived onscene and confirmed multiple entrapments and Code-41s (deceased). I knew this was gonna be a big story so I quickly grabbed my gear and loaded up my car. The scene was 10 minutes away so I would be there pretty fast. Since it was my day off and I wasn’t technically on the clock, my wife hopped in the truck with me and we headed to the scene.
Sheriff dept had shut down all the roads so we parked inside of an apartment complex that was right in front of the scene. I parked behind the wall of the apartment complex so I couldn’t actually see the scene so as I grabbed my equipment I told my wife to head towards the scene and check out the access.
As I grabbed my two camera bodies and walked towards the opening in the wall I saw my wife walking towards me, she was as white as a ghost.
She said. “Oh my god, it’s bad, really bad!” She was in shock.
When I walked around the wall and saw the massive accident scene I was in shock as well. There were about 30 bystanders standing all around, including in the street looking and filming with their cellphones. Immediately in front of the wall was a vehicle crashed, firefighters were still tending to the patient. Cops, firefighters, trucks, bystanders and car parts were all over the place it was a hectic scene. Scattered on the four lane road was glass, car parts, tires, and even a complete engine. Across the street firefighters and cops were putting a blanket on one car and on a body that was near the curb. It was horrific.
This was the worst vehicle crash that I have ever seen.
All in all the crash claimed the lives of 5 people including a mother, Marianela Murillo and two of her children, Maria, 10, and 9-year-old John. After colliding with the Sienna, the Volkswagen rotated and hit a Toyota Scion. Its driver, Carla Marie Wyman, 54, of Seffner, suffered serious injuries. Florida Highway Patrol investigators say that a speeding VW driven by 22 year old Pablo Cortes lost control and caused the deadly crash. Inside the VW driven by Cortes was his 19 year old girlfriend Jolie Bartolome both died at the scene.
According to witnesses as the van burst into flames brave good samaritans and deputies tried to save the victims in the burning car but it was too late.
This must have been traumatic to everyone involved and it is truly a life changing experience.
I made my photos and headed home, on the way my wife and I reflected on how horrible the crash was and how lucky we are.
If you are interested in reading more check out these links from the Tampa Bay Times reporters that did a great job following up.