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Manhunt underway for Florida driver in day care hit-and-run

April 10, 2014|By Matt Pearce
  • A mugshot of Robert Corchado, 28, who is suspected of instigating a hit-and-run accident that sent another car plowing into an Orlando, Fla.-area day-care center.
A mugshot of Robert Corchado, 28, who is suspected of instigating a hit-and-run… (Florida Department of Corrections )

Florida authorities were hunting for a 28-year-old ex-con Thursday after a hit-and-run crash at an Orlando-area day care center left one young girl dead and 15 people hurt, most of them children.

Officials said Robert Corchado slammed his Dodge Durango into the back of another man's car on Wednesday. The other vehicle then crashed into the KinderCare in Winter Park, Fla., as Corchado sped away in his own vehicle, which he abandoned in exchange for a rented Mazda SUV, officials said.

Xavier Velez, 5,  was sitting inside the KinderCare when a Toyota plowed through the building and into his pre-kindergarten class.

Xavier — struck by a table — was among a dozen children hospitalized after the crash, some with critical or serious injuries. His classmate, 4-year-old Lily Quintus, was pronounced dead soon after.

By Thursday, Xavier was back home, thinking about the terrifying crash and his classmates.

"I know that this is still on his mind because he'll stop, he'll pause and will say 'stupid car…'" Xavier's father, Ralph Velez, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Several children remained hospitalized Thursday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

Investigators think Corchado may be fleeing the state or lying low with gang associates in the Latin Kings. When asked by reporters whether he might be armed, one Florida Highway Patrol official cited Corchado's history of drug arrests and convictions and said, "I don’t know many drug dealers that don’t carry guns."

Corchado has a history of hit and runs, according to criminal records obtained by the Sentinel. A few months after leaving prison in September 2012 for a drug conviction, he crashed into a car in Seminole County and kept driving before he was caught a few houses away with marijuana and other drugs in and around his vehicle, officials said. 

Just last week, Corchado was cited for careless driving after rear-ending a Buick at a red light in Orange County, Fla., according to the Sentinel.

At a Thursday news conference, officials declined to speak at length about Corchado's criminal background.

The crash itself remains under investigation. Florida Highway Patrol investigators said they don't think that the incident was road-rage-related or that Corchado knew the other driver, Albert Dean Campbell, 61.

Investigators think Campbell may have panicked or was unable to stop before traveling some distance to hit the day care center. Authorities declined to rule out charges against him. 

The Orlando Sentinel contributed to this report. 

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