Three people died and eight were injured in a crash that happened after a motorist in a Cadillac Escalade hit a bear and stopped along a two-lane road in the Florida Everglades.
Seminole police spokesman Gary Bitner told The Associated Press that people traveling in a second vehicle Sunday evening had stopped to help when a third vehicle plowed into them. The bear also died.
“Three people from a second vehicle got out and tried to help and all were struck and killed by a third vehicle,” Bitner said by telephone, adding events apparently unfolded quickly.
It was shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday when the first vehicle hit the bear.
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“We’ve never had an accident involving a black bear,” Bitner noted. “There are black bears throughout Florida and this is in the Everglades, so there absolutely are black bears in that area.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office sent crews to help. An official said four critically injured patients were airlifted to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale. Four people with non-life-threatening injuries were taken by ambulance. Officials say some of the victims were children.
Bitner said identities of those involved and the extent of their injuries weren’t immediately available. He said accident reconstruction experts were on the scene late Sunday and details remained uncertain of precisely how events unfolded or the speed and make of the vehicles. He said at least two of the vehicles were going in opposite directions.
“They are still trying to figure everything out,” he said.
Bitner said the crash happened on the approximately 50,000-acre Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, one of several tribal reservations scattered around Florida. He said the crash occurred north of Interstate 75, which is also known as Alligator Alley.
Encounters with bears in Florida are reported sporadically. Last week, wildlife authorities in central Florida said they captured and killed a bear that was suspected of biting a woman on the arm last Wednesday as she walked her dog in the Orlando suburb of Lake Mary. Authorities said they also captured two of that bear’s cubs but one was killed in the process. They added the other cub was old enough to survive on its own and they planned to release it elsewhere.