A Dade City family and community are devastated after a horrific car accident early Tuesday morning.
Justin and Sharonda Sims were driving their kids home after a day of shopping at the Orlando outlet malls, just after midnight Tuesday. For unknown reasons, Justin Sims didn't stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Deen Still Road and County Road 33.
The family's 1998 Buick Century was hit by a northbound semi-truck and was dragged for about 500 feet underneath its trailer.
Justin and Sharonda, along with their 5-year old son, Savion, were killed in the accident. Their two little girls, Ariel, 7, and Kitty, 2, are at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. The Polk County Sheriff's Office said late Tuesday Ariel and Kitty are expected to make a full recovery.
The family's 3-month-old baby, Arienne, wasn't seriously injured. Deputies said she was safely locked into a car seat. Everyone else in the car was not wearing seatbelts.
"They're very sweet people. It's sad that we lost them in this type of situation," said Ethel Gray, one of the Sims' neighbors. "I still feel like it's a dream, that when I wake up she's going to walk out the door."
The Sims' neighborhood held a candlelight vigil Tuesday night to honor the family's memories.
"In a mother's shoes, you can just imagine their final moments and stuff because they loved each other and they loved their kids dearly," said Tiffany Hammond, a friend who considered the Sims part of her family. "It's just, it's heart-breaking."
"It's hurtful, but we're all sharing our tears. But, you know, we have to thank God. He received three angels," Gray said.
The driver of the semi-truck survived and is not facing charges. Traffic homicide investigators are focusing their attention on why Justin Sims didn't stop.
A solar-powered flashing light on top of the stop sign was broken at the time of the accident. County crews fixed it before the road was reopened Tuesday morning.
"The stop sign was in place. It's reflective, and certainly it's not normal practice to have a flashing light on every stop sign," said Sheriff Grady Judd, who called this a "tragedy of monumental proportions."
"It's heartbreaking because it could be anybody. You just never know when your time is," neighbor Lisa Drevermann said Tuesday.
Friends said the family did everything together and had moved to Dade City about a year ago.
"They were always spending time with them. Whenever we saw them, the kids were always there. They were always outside with them," friend Kim Mahon said Tuesday.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office says Justin Sims was driving on a suspended license.
The Florida Department of Transportation is now considering adding a round-a-bout to the intersection to slow down drivers.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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