COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A Collier County mother says she wants justice after her daughter was left in the roadway by the driver who hit her. In a Four in Your Corner investigation, FOX 4 anchor and investigator, Jane Monreal, asked law enforcement why investigators have not made an arrest.
The family of Allessandra Benavidez says they're not sure when she'll be released from the hospital. The 11-year-old was heading to school Monday morning when she was struck by a car. Brenda Benavidez says, "My daughter now has physical problems, mental, emotional. This is something that's going to be long-term for her, for my husband, for myself, for my daughters. Our life changed completely that day."
Carmen Gray was an eyewitness as she was waiting at the stop sign at Pope John Paul and Allegra in Ave Maria. She recalls, "Like a normal driver, you look to your left, your right, and your left again. And the millisecond I turned back to left, was the impact. All I saw was, almost like the matrix, her hair swung. She hit the windshield and she fell, and the vehicle rolled over her, crossed over her legs, which caused her to be dragged a little bit."
Gray also remembers, "And the vehicle keeps going. I did notice the brake lights were applied and the driver had pulled to the left and I went, 'Ok, good they're coming back, and I ran to Allessandra."
Then, she says she was busy tending to the young girl, when another witness told her, "The driver is gone. And I went, 'What?' And he goes, 'She's gone, and that's when I told the 911 dispatcher that it's a hit and run."
Benavidez says by all accounts, the driver did return less than an hour later. She says, "My husband approaches her and says, 'Are you the person that hit my daughter?' Yes. She says, 'I was praying and, as I was praying, I felt something. i didn't know what I hit. I realize I hit something when I got home.' "
Lieutenant Greg Bueno from Florida Highway Patrol says, "By statute, if you were involved in a crash, property damage or injury, you should immediately stop your vehicle on scene. It doesn't say, go home and think about it, go have dinner with your friends and come back days later. You shall immediately stop on scene and remain on scene. What you should do morally is call 911."
Bueno says investigations take time before filing any charges. He says, "Because we don't have all the pieces to the puzzle. I mean, we have to obviously locate the vehicle. We have to be able to tie that vehicle to the scene. We just can't say, a white Ford, oh it was a white Ford. I see a white Ford, therefore that's it. We have to have a stronger case than that or, we're going to lose in court."
Collier County Sheriff's Office issued the driver a notice to appear for leaving the scene. The investigation is ongoing. FOX 4 has requested a copy of the incident report.
*editor's note: CCSO qualifies, "A notice to appear is the same as an arrest, so this driver has been arrested for leaving the scene."
According to Florida Highway Patrol, leaving the scene of a crash with injuries is a third-degree felony and a driver, when convicted, will have their driver license revoked for at least three years and can be sentenced to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
Additional data from FHP:
In 2020, there were more than 91,000 hit-and-run crashes in Florida, resulting in 254 fatalities, an increase of over 18 percent from last year, and 921 serious bodily injuries.
Of the 254 hit-and-run fatalities in 2020, 137 were pedestrians and 25 were bicyclists (63 percent.)
From 2015-2020, 85 percent of hit-and-run fatalities occurred during dawn, dusk or nighttime conditions.
Under Florida law, a driver must stop immediately at the scene of a crash on public or private property which results in property damage, injury, or death.
If the crash involves property damage, leaving the scene is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Drivers leaving the scene of a crash with a fatality could be sentenced up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A Go Fund Me page is set up for Alessandra.