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Monday, May 28, 2018
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Land O’ Lakes boy, 9, fatally struck while walking dog

LAND O’ LAKES — A 9-year-old boy was killed, and his mother and brother were seriously injured Wednesday morning, when they were struck by a van while walking their dog in Land O’ Lakes, officials said.

Jorge Cruz, of Land O’ Lakes, died from his injuries after being transported to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point Hospital in Hudson, officials said.

His 7-year-old brother, David, was airlifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, and their mother, 33-year-old Anita Pallares, was taken to Bayonet Point. They were in stable condition Wednesday afternoon.

The family was on their way to visit Pallares’ sister, Martha Pallares, who lives on Bahia Loop. The family lives in the same rural neighborhood, which doesn’t have sidewalks. The accident occurred in front of the sister’s house, according to neighbor Andres Garcia.

“My mom was in the kitchen this morning when she heard a big boom and a scream,” Garcia said. “My mom came out running, and the sister came out and she was screaming for help. They couldn’t find a pulse on Jorge.”

The driver, 21-year-old John Ryals, of Land O’ Lakes, “looked like he was in shock,” Garcia said. Ryals was ticketed for careless driving, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

According to the highway patrol, Ryals failed to observe the pedestrians when his westbound 2014 Chevrolet Express van hit all three on Bahia Loop, near Turf Drive, at 7:45 a.m.

The family was walking east, on the correct side of the roadway, facing the oncoming traffic, troopers said. Neighbors said the two sisters and their kids frequently walked around the neighborhood. “They were really friendly, they always waved,” a neighbor said.

Garcia described Jorge Cruz as a happy, outgoing child. “He always had a smile on his face,” he said. “They’re a good family.”

The family’s Chihuahua also died at the scene, the highway patrol said.

Ryals was not injured, the highway patrol said.

Investigators said alcohol was not a factor in the collision.

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