Distracted Driver Waving Goodbye To Family Accidently Struck, Killed 7-Year-Old Florida Girl, Who Was Riding Her Bike — But Family ‘Questions Circumstances’

Angelica N. Sumter - Author

Jun. 28 2016, Updated 12:25 p.m. ET

Authorities in Florida say that a distracted driver, Fernando Rea Franco, 27, of Fort Myers, who was waving goodbye to his family, struck and killed a 7-year-old girl as she was riding her bicycle. Just shortly before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, Alondra Karina Zavala-Garcia was riding her bicycle near her home on Jupiter Road when she was suddenly struck by a Ford E-250 van, according to the Naples News.

It was reported that the distracted driver of the van was Franco, who was waving goodbye and talking to a family in a yard adjacent to Garcia’s home. Afterwards, he drove off and ultimately hit the child, dragging her several feet before stopping in front of the home of Jody Ward.

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The homeowner told reporters that he ran outside to help as soon as he heard the crash, but when he made his way to the van, there was nothing he could do. Ward stated that he could see little hands holding on to the vehicle’s bumper, and when he looked underneath the vehicle, he saw the body of Zavala-Garcia.

“I was thinking maybe I could get her out from under the van. I slid underneath the van. I checked for a pulse,” but the Florida girl was tragically killed after being struck by the vehicle.

Ward stated that he was reluctant to inform the child’s father that his little girl was gone, but he had no choice and the devastating news left the child’s father in shock. The neighbor said, “I held on to the dad. I did what I could do.”

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When Lee County emergency services arrived at the scene, they found the girl dead, still underneath Franco’s work van.

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Another neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he has “been in the military and have seen dead people, but when you see a little innocent child’s hands underneath the vehicle trying to hold on,” it’s heartbreaking.

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“I have been here for 20 years; they’re all family and when you see one of them under a vehicle it hurts.”

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Ward added that the distracted driver “didn’t mean to do it, nope. He didn’t; it was an accident that’s all it was, an accident.”

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Although Franco, who is a relative of the child, was deemed a good man with a family of his own, Zavala-Garcia’s family believe that her death was more than just an accident. They have hired an attorney to uncover what really happened, according to NBC 2.

The child’s mother, Sophia Salvador, who was visibly heartbroken over the loss of her daughter in an interview, told reporters that “if he would have been more cautious, my daughter may be here. She was my only princess. I just wish he can pay for what he’s done.”

It was later uncovered that Lee County police officials reportedly asked the passenger in the van if they had been drinking after finding “two open beers in the center console.” The passenger admitted that he and Franco were drinking a few beers an hour before to the fatal accident.

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After undergoing “multiple field sobriety tests,” the officers were convinced that Franco was not under the influence during the accident.

However, Franco was arrested and he is now facing charges of driving without a license, causing a death. Reports also show that he received a citation for having an “open container in his van.”

Alondra Karina Zavala-Garcia’s tragic death shocked the community, who left flowers, cards, notes, and teddy bears where she was struck and killed. The following day, family and neighbors gathered to say a prayer for the Florida girl.

Meanwhile, Fernando Rea Franco is currently being held at the Lee County jail on a set bond of $200,000. His arraignment will be held July 25.

[Image via Shutterstock]


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