Four people, including a 12-year-old girl, were killed Tuesday morning in a large crash on Interstate 4 in Lakeland that shut down the westbound lanes for several hours.

  • 4 people, including a girl, killed in I-4 crash in Lakeland
  • 1 person seriously injured
  • 7 vehicles involved in crash
  • Westbound lanes reopened after 5 hours
  • Traffic resources

The crash happened just after 8 a.m. and involved seven vehicles, according to Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol.

The westbound lanes of I-4 between Kathleen Road and Memorial Boulevard reopened Tuesday afternoon after a five-hour closure.

"There was debris everywhere and it wasn't just in one small spot, it had spread across the lanes,” said Brittany Donatelli, a witness.

Gaskins said the crash started when two vehicles hit each other in the eastbound lanes.

"What we've determined initially is that an eastbound pickup truck clipped another eastbound vehicle, lost control and traveled into the westbound lanes, colliding with several other vehicles," Gaskins said. "That first vehicle overturned several times, and two people in that vehicle were ejected, because they weren't wearing seat belts."

According to a preliminary FHP report, a 1999 Ford F-250 was heading eastbound on I-4 at a high rate of speed when it collided with a 2008 Ford F-250. The first pickup lost control, rotated into the median and entered the westbound lanes, where it hit a 2007 Chevrolet van. The first pickup then became airborne, and its undercarriage struck a 2010 Nissan sedan. The pickup landed and continued to overturn until it stopped on the shoulder of the westbound lanes.

The driver of the 1999 Ford pickup, Dustin Wayne Toole, 22, from Haines City, was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It's unfortunate that four people lost their lives this morning out of a crash like this,” Gaskins said. “We believe speed may have played a part in the initial reasoning for why the crash occurred."

Troopers said Cassie Ann Gatcha, 12, of Clermont, died at the scene. Elma Gatcha, 36, also of Clermont, was seriously injured and taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Both were in the Nissan and were wearing seat belts, FHP said.

Both occupants of the Chevy van — Iran Torres, 45 from Venezuela, who was driving and 59-year-old Leonardo Mathieu-Turallas from Alpharetta, Georgia — died at the scene.

The two occupants of the 2008 Ford F-250 were not injured.