Fatal deputy-involved car crash in Okeechobee leaves two dead, 3 injured early Sunday morning

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Two people died and an Okeechobee County deputy was critically injured in a multi-vehicle crash in Okeechobee just after two a.m. Sunday.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Deputy Joseph Gracie was driving westbound on State Road 70, followed by Deputy William Jolly. They were en route to a domestic disturbance. FHP says both deputies "were responding without emergency equipment activated."

Investigators say an eastbound 2000 Ford Focus, driven by Elizabeth Arellano Renteria, 21, made a left turn into the path of deputy Gracie's patrol car.

Deputy Gracie's vehicle struck the right, front side of Renteria's car. The impact of the collision caused Gracie's car to hit an aluminum light pole nearby. Deputy Jolly arrived on the scene, and was then struck by the falling light pole, FHP said.

Renteria, and Hilda Marisol Medrano, 21, of Okeechobee died in the collision, said Sergeant Mark Wysocky, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol. They were not wearing seat belts.

There was also a third person in the vehicle with Renteria and Medrano. She was identified as Isamar Jaimes, 20, and she was transported to Raulerson Hospital with critical injuries.

Gracie, 46, sustained critical injuries and was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, and Jolly, 40, walked away from the accident with minor injuries, Wysocky said.

Gracie underwent surgery and his long-term prognosis is good, according to the sheriff's office.

The vehicle crash happened on State Road 70, just east of Northeast 4th Avenue, Wysocky said.

The crash remains under investigation.

Okeechobee County Sheriff Paul C. May released the following statement:

"Words cannot express how bad we at the Sheriff's Office feel about this tragedy that has happened in our community.  Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these young ladies that perished in this accident.  We can only imagine how these families must feel.  We pray for the Deputy and the other young lady involved, to make a speedy recovery.  This accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol and we will cooperate with FHP in every facet of this investigation and will await the conclusion of their investigation."
 

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