Broward County

A visiting family enjoyed the night. An out-of-control Chevy brought tragedy

The Wensel-Leota Family of Eagle Mountain, Utah. Raquel Leota, second from left in pink, and Tyson Wensel, in gray, were the most seriously injured when hit by a Chevrolet SSR Sunday night.
The Wensel-Leota Family of Eagle Mountain, Utah. Raquel Leota, second from left in pink, and Tyson Wensel, in gray, were the most seriously injured when hit by a Chevrolet SSR Sunday night.

After a Sunday night dinner at The Rustic Inn Crabhouse, a family of seven from Eagle Mountain, Utah, skipped the hotel shuttle for a walk in the South Florida warmth. They were scheduled to leave on a cruise Monday morning.

A few minutes later, a 24-year-old daughter’s left foot was severed and her 10-year-old brother’s right leg was seriously injured.

A 2005 Chevrolet SSR driven by Pembroke Pines’ James Howell smashed into Raquel Leota, Tyson Wensel and Leota’s husband, Thomas Leota, from behind on Southwest 42nd Street in Dania Beach, Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said Monday.

A Gofundme page set up by the family Monday says Raquel Leota and Wensel remain in Broward Health’s intensive care unit. Wensel suffered a concussion, a lacerated leg, a fractured foot and bruised lungs, according to the page.

Jachles said Thomas Leota, 31, wasn’t seriously injured. Howell, 57, suffered minor injuries and was released Sunday night.

BSO’s Traffic Homicide unit says alcohol and speed might have played a role in the crash, which remains under investigation. Witnesses saw Howell heading west on Southwest 42nd Street near Ravenswood Road and the family had been walking on the south side of the street’s swale, across the eastbound lanes from Howell.

Witnesses told BSO that Howell, in trying to pass another car, crossed into the eastbound lanes and lost control. After crashing through the three Utah tourists across from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s economy parking lot, the Chevy bashed through a fence and smashed into a concrete light pole.

Howell has a clean driving record in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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