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University of South Florida student grieving after parents die in crash near Lake Wales

Gabriel Rodriguez is son of Port St. Lucie couple killed
Grandparents killed in head-on crash near Lake Wales after day at Busch Gardens
Posted at 4:16 PM, Apr 14, 2024

LAKE WALES, Fla. — A University of South Florida student lost both of his parents after a driver crashed into their pickup truck in a head-on collision in Polk County.

Josie Maldonado and Luis Rodriguez had spent the day at Busch Gardens with their son and grandson on April 6. The couple were headed home to Port St. Lucie on a two-lane road near Lake Wales.

Luis Rodriguez and Joamar Maldonado of Port St. Lucie were killed in a crash on April 6, 2024, in Polk County.

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Polk County deputies said 22-year-old Hannah Wieser slammed into the couple's pick-up truck on Highway 60 East while traveling more than 100 miles per hour.

The couple's 3-year-old grandson was in the backseat.

Gabriel Rodriguez attends the University of South Florida. He said he had just spent the day with his parents and nephew at Busch Gardens.

Grandparents killed in head-on crash near Lake Wales after day at Busch Gardens

His parents sent him a text saying they were on their way home. Later that evening, he said he got a message on his iPhone alerting him that his parents were involved in a car crash.

"I got an SOS message on my phone because I'm an emergency contact for my mom, the phone, it said, "SOS Crash Detected," Gabriel said. "I called my mom and dad three times each. They didn't pick up."

Gabriel said he is heartbroken his parents will never get to see him graduate.

"They were bragging to their friends that I was about to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, a few of my mom's friends texted me saying that. It's the hardest reality for myself, they won't be able to see my biggest accomplishments," Gabriel said.

His nephew who was in the backseat of the pickup truck survived the crash and was later released from the hospital.

"They had the child on a concussion protocol because of the viciousness of the crash, but grandma and granddad quite appropriately had the baby seat belted the right way in the backseat," Sheriff Grady Judd with the Polk County Sheriff's Office said

Wieser also died in the crash. According to Sheriff Judd, she had a 3-year-old child of her own.

"Hannah also left a 3-year-old child without a mother. The 3-year-old was not in the car, but Hannah has a 3-year-old child that now has to grow up without mom all because of her recklessness, her excessive speed," said Sheriff Judd.

Judd said deputies are investigating to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash.

"It's sad for everyone, but this lady caused the crash that killed her and killed two wonderful people to include a school teacher," said Sheriff Judd.

Gabriel said his parents were loved by everyone who knew them. His mother was a school teacher, and his parents sacrificed a lot for their family.

"You never expect these things to happen, but unfortunately they did," he said.

A GoFundMe page is raising money for the Rodriguez family. To learn more click here.