FHP launches ‘Stay at the Scene’ program to stress importance of staying at the scene of a wreck

Reporter: Nicole Lauren
Published: Updated:
Credit: FHP.

In 2019 there were 105,000 hit-and-run accidents in the state. Troopers say, even if you are scared or not sure what you may have hit, it is imperative you always pull over instead of leaving the scene.

Lieutenant Greg Bueno with Florida Highway Patrol says Wednesday’s “Stay at the Scene” presentation is all about educating drivers on the penalties that come with leaving the scene of an incident without confirming it is ok to do so.

Bueno also stressed how important witnesses are in those accidents.

An example of that is when 21-year-old Austin Manke was killed on the Cape Coral Bridge, a tipster reported seeing a person checking out some damage on their car and called it in. That led to an arrest of the hit-and-run suspect.

We spoke with the father of one victim. Someone hit his son, Patrick Santiago, 37, as he was walking near Beau Drive and Hancock Bridge Parkway On Feb. 24, 2019. Instead of staying at the scene, that person took off and is still out on our streets.

Not a day goes by that Freddie Santiago doesn’t think about his son.

“I see him everywhere,” he said. “I see his gestures, he was my mini-me, and my family is devastated.”

All that’s left are the memories etched in his mind.

“Five minutes of time just for a phone call will possibly save a person’s life,” Santiago said.

“This problem is epidemic in our community to stop,” said FHP Trooper George Smyrnios.

Now, in an effort to stop this growing problem, FHP, LCSO and Crime Stoppers unveiled the “Stay at the Scene” program.

“They could’ve made the choice to stay on the scene, call 911, try to render help like a decent human being should do, but in every one of these cases, they left like cowards,” said Trish Routte with Crime Stoppers.

Like Rosalia Tejeda Diaz, who is accused of hitting and killing Kate Johnson and her dog, Diva, on McGregor Boulevard last month.

FHP says more than 3,000 of those 105,000 hit-and-runs in Florida were in Lee County—four of them deadly.

“Stay on scene and render aid, make a phone call, do something. Don’t run,” said Phish Ross with Lee County.

Don’t run; it can be the difference between life and death for the victim.

A person involved in a hit-and-run that leads to death gets a mandatory minimum of four years in prison.

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