Hudson, FL -- The family of a little boy killed after a van veered off the road last week in Land O' Lakes, is now speaking out about the tragedy.
Relatives say investigators need to dig deeper into the accident that claimed the life of 9-year-old Jorge Cruz-Pallares. Jorge Cruz Sr. could not help but weep as he described the son that shared his name.
The van, driven by 21-year-old John Ryals, struck little Jorge, his younger brother David, and their mother Anita as they walked along the road.
"My boy was courageous. He was outgoing," said Cruz, "Always willing to help and I miss him a lot. And I want justice."
The family, still struggling to cope with the tragedy, gathered Monday outside the hospital where the boys' mother was still recovering.
Their attorney, Gil Sanchez, suggests there may be design flaws along the road where the family was struck. Sanchez also contends that Ryals -- who was ticketed for careless driving -- should have also been tested for DUI, considering he had just turned 21 the night before.
"We have information that is leading us to research and investigate beyond just an accident," said Sanchez.
Anita's sister Martha also demanded justice, suggesting the case might be tainted by racism. If a Latino driver runs a red light, she said, he goes to jail, "And then someone who's non-Hispanic kills a kid and just goes home."
For now, Ryals has not been arrested.
We asked the Florida Highway Patrol about the family's allegations. They welcomed anyone with any additional solid information to contact them.
Anita Pallares was scheduled to leave the hospital late this afternoon, but her family says she will still need a substantial amount of physical rehabilitation. They also face some difficult emotional decisions as well, about funeral arrangements for little Jorge.
IstyleXG located at 24406 S.R. 54 in Lutz will be hosting a Cut-A-Thon fundraiser to support the Cruz Family on June 25 by reservation only from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. The reservation line is 813-949-0604 and will open at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24. 100% of funds will go to the Cruz Family. Men, women and children can get a cut for $25! Cash or check made will be payable to family trust.
Also, Beef O Brady's located at 21539 Village Lakes Shopping Center in Land O' Lakes will donate 10% of total sales from guest bills that mention "Cruz Family Fundraiser" on Thursday, June 26 only.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to help the Cruz family with funeral arrangements, a direct deposit can be made or check payable to:
Jorge Cruz Memorial Fund
Acct. #: 9013753844
Wells Fargo (any branch)
Mailing Address: 10444 Blackmore Dr., Tampa, FL 33647
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