Javier Prado tried to be a good Samaritan when he intervened to break up a fight in the parking lot of a strip mall in Hialeah in January. But Prado’s good deed ended in tragedy when a car suddenly drove into the crowd and struck Prado, who later died of his injuries.
Then on Feb. 4, a van ran a red light and struck a car at the corner of Southwest Seventh Street and 17th Avenue. A 22-day-old baby was ejected from the car and hospitalized with serious injuries, while the van driver took off.
The recent cases were among an increasing number of hit-and-run crashes.
Figures released recently by the Florida Highway Patrol show hit-and-runs have been on the rise over the last four years. In 2013, there were 78,661 hit-and-run crashes in the state. In 2014, there were 85,241; in 2015, 94,456; in 2016, 99,004.
FHP’s statistics did not include a breakdown of figures from 2013 to 2016 for each Florida county. But they showed that Miami-Dade in 2016 had the most hit-and-run crashes in all of Florida’s 67 counties: 19,087. The runner-up was Broward with 11,993. The third county with the most hit-and-run crashes was Palm Beach with 7,694.
The other counties with significant numbers of hit-and-run crashes were also urban metropolitan areas such as Orange, which includes Orlando, 7,343; Duval, in Jacksonville, 7,123; and Hillsborough, which includes Tampa, 5,285.
While the number of hit-and-run crashes has increased, the number of deadly hit-and-runs has declined, according to FHP statistics.
In 2015, there were 198 fatalities in hit-and-run crashes. Last year’s numbers went down to 179. Also, Miami-Dade in 2016 did not lead the state in the number of deaths by hit-and-run crashes, with 20 compared to 21 in the Orlando area.
Some experts believe that the increase in hit-and-run crashes is possibly connected to at least two factors: increased penalties for driving while drunk and lack of immigration status.
“Many immigrants who have no status cannot get a driver license or auto insurance, but they have to drive to go to work, but if they crash, they don’t stay at the scene because they’re afraid of being detained and deported,” said Francisco Portillo, president of the Miami immigrant rights group Francisco Morazán Honduran Organization.
Prado, the man struck in Hialeah, was taken to a hospital where he died of his injuries Feb. 16. Ifeyinwa Ibeabuchi, Prado’s fiancée, said the family estimates they need more than $30,000 to cover hospital and funeral expenses.
“We need the community’s help,” Ibeabuchi said.
Prado became a hit-and-run victim, according to police, when he was struck near West 70th Street and 12th Avenue around 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26.
According to authorities, several people were fighting in a strip mall parking. Prado was walking to the scene to stop the fight when Michael Delgado, the suspect, drove his car into the crowd. When Prado saw that his son, Rohan, was in imminent danger, he pushed the 20-year-old out of the way, Ibeabuchi said. The car then hit Prado, witnesses told police.
Delgado was booked in January on charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft, according to Miami-Dade County jail information. He bonded out of jail but was rearrested Feb. 17 after Prado died. The charges were then upgraded to second-degree murder.
As for the van driver who fled the scene in the Feb. 4 incident, Miami police shared a picture of the vehicle and details that could help someone identify the driver.
It’s a white Ford Econoline cargo van, possibly a 2004-07 model, with front-end damage and an elevation platform in the back.