4-year-old girl dies after SUV drives through DeSoto County playground

ARCADIA, Fla. (WFLA) – A 4-year-old girl died and another girl was injured after an SUV drove through a playground at a DeSoto County daycare center and hit them, according to a Florida report. Highway Patrol.

According to the report, the incident happened around 4:30 p.m. at the Imagination Station learning center on E. Magnolia Street in Arcadia.

Highway Patrol said the driver left the road, hit a sign and drove through a fence surrounding the playground where two girls aged 4 and 5 were playing. The SUV hit a pole and playground equipment and in the process collided with the girls. Then he hit a tree.

The 4-year-old girl, identified as Maleena Faith Valdez, was rushed to hospital in critical condition and later died.

Maleena’s grandmother told WFLA that she was a very happy little girl.

“Oh my God, I miss her so much,” Josephine Valdez said. “It shouldn’t even have happened, but it did. Only God knows why. She was just playing in the playground, being a little girl like all other children. But why this tragedy – why?

News Channel 8 has learned that the 5-year-old who was hit broke his arm but is expected to be fine.

Maleena’s family told WFLA that her sister Jazziah was on the playground when the accident happened and heard a loud bang, but did not see the children being hit. Jazziah, 8, told WFLA it was hard to see her sister in pain and said she was praying for the injured little girl.

The driver, identified by soldiers as 18-year-old Kiara Rishelle Morant, was treated for minor injuries immediately after the crash. She was later arrested and charged with driving without a license. She has since been released on $120 bail, according to online jail records.

Source: DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office

“Right now we have an inexperienced driver behind the wheel. This person did not have a valid Florida driver’s license,” said FHP Trooper Kenn Watson.

The soldier added the driver, “flat, he should not have been behind the wheel” at the time of the accident.

“You can only imagine the pandemonium that was happening for all of this to happen in seconds,” he said. “And actually hitting two kids is just something unfathomable.”

Additional charges may be pending against Morant following the child’s death. Maleena’s family just wants justice.

“We are going to fight until the end and it will be for Maleena Faith Valdez,” said the girl’s grandmother. “Our baby has gained his wings.”

Harold B. McConnell