WINTER PARK, Fla. — Authorities want to question a man who has been arrested eight times since 2000 about his possible role in a car’s crash into a Florida day care center that left one girl dead and injured 14 others, mostly children.
Authorities in the Orlando area were searching Thursday for 26-year-old Robert Corchado, whom they have described as a “person of interest” in the crash into the KinderCare building Wednesday afternoon.
A Toyota Solara convertible went out of control after it was struck by a Dodge Durango, jumped a curb and smashed into the day care, breaking through the wall and into the building, said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Wanda Diaz. The convertible’s driver was not hurt.
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care’s playground. Several of the injured were carried out on stretchers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, parents could be seen waiting to pick up their children, and then clutching them in their arms as they were escorted to their vehicles by authorities.
The Durango left the scene. Police said Corchado was the driver, but they wouldn’t say how they knew that. They said troopers and deputies were headed for Orlando International Airport to look for him, adding he was trying to flee the area.
A man answered the phone for a number listed to Corchado and hung up when he was asked, “May I speak to Robert Corchado?”
Corchado’s most recent arrest, in December, was on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense attorney in that case, Jack Kaleita, didn’t return a phone call or email after business hours.
Department of Corrections records show Corchado has served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the crash an “absolute tragedy and disaster.”
Diaz said a girl died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, but she didn’t have any more details. One person at the hospital was in critical condition and five others were in serious condition, said spokeswoman Katie Dagenais.
In all, 13 people were hospitalized, including the girl who died from her injuries, and two others were treated at the scene, authorities said. Eleven of the injured were children, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue.
Several of the injured at the KinderCare building in Winter Park were reported to be in “very, very serious condition,” Diaz said.
The day care’s website says the center provides childcare and learning opportunities for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement saying, “As a grandfather of three young children, I can’t imagine losing such a precious life at such a young age. Today’s hit-and-run was an act of cowardice, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol are working closely with local law enforcement to bring those who caused this crash to justice.”