Deisy Carranco reflects now on why things happened the way they did – on what set them on that long drive home in the dark.
That weekend in late October, Carranco, 34, was in Orlando with her husband and six kids to support two of her daughters in their cheerleading competitions. Everything was going so well – with the girls’ squads advancing to the finals.
As the family packed up to return home to Arcadia that evening – planning to come right back to Orlando the next day – Carranco remembered that organizers suggested that out-of-town families stay over. After all, it was easy to get lost in a new place, and accidents can happen late at night.
But the household budget didn’t stretch. The money that she had planned to use for a hotel that weekend instead went to a big birthday party the week before for one of the girls, Gizel, turning 13. Given Carranco’s own troubled childhood, she was determined to celebrate her kids on their special days – to make sure that they were surrounded by cousins and loved ones.
So that night in Orlando, ahead of the two-hour drive, Carranco strapped the kids in the backseat of the Nissan Sentra – the boys, Jonathan Jr., 5, Nathaniel, 4, and Castiel, almost 16 months; along with Gizel and her sisters, Dylana, 17 and Cataleya, 7.
Though the Sentra was spacious, Carranco had wanted to use their roomier SUV for the day, but it had a broken tire. She would later wonder if the kids unbuckled seatbelts to get more comfortable.
Heading home on the open highway, with Casas behind the wheel and Carranco in the front passenger seat, she and the children dozed off.
Then sometime around 11 p.m. on U.S. 17 – just south of Wauchula and only about 15 minutes from their front door – a violent push shoved Carranco awake.
She couldn’t yet know of the drunk driver entering their path, or tell, in her shock, that the shove was the Sentra spinning, bouncing, and flipping several times, landing on its tires. Nor could she hear over the ringing in her ears. All she could see was the blurry figure of her husband on the road, screaming – gesturing wildly for her to get out.
When somehow she did, what entered her mind next was the searing image of the crumpled car before her – and the horrible thought of all her children trapped inside.