HILLLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Troopers say a driver had a blood alcohol level of .15, nearly two times the legal limit, when he hit an SUV on Interstate-75 Wednesday night, then fled the scene.
63-year-old Billy Catherwood faces a total of 11 charges in connection with the crash that injured three kids and their father. He was arrested and booked into the Manatee County Jail early Thursday morning.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, Catherwood was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck and tried to overtake a Ford Explorer in the center lane of I-75 going southbound toward Sun City Center Boulevard.
Catherwood’s F-150 hit the Explorer which caused it to flip and land in the grassy center median.
“It flew up in the air and turned over 3 or 4 times,” said Kevin Fox, who witnessed the crash
All four family members inside the Ford Explorer were injured. Two children were not wearing seat belts. 10-year-old Rodner Sandoval and 6-year-old Ashley Sandoval were ejected from the Explorer. Ashley was transported to Tampa General Hospital with critical injuries.
Rodner was seriously injured.
35-year-old Jesus Sandoval was driving the SUV and suffered minor injuries. He and 8-year-old Sahirys Sandoval were both wearing seatbelts, according to the FHP report.
“Two of the kids were fine,” said Fox. “They were hurt, but they were coherent. They kept talking, and we kept talking to them to make sure they were OK until emergency responders got there.”
“I’m trained in first aid and CPR and about 5 minutes after I got out to help, I realized there was a 3rd child that had been ejected from the car. We started getting her treatment right away,” said Fox.
FHP troopers also charged Catherwood with five counts of Hit and Run Failing to Remain at a Crash With Serious Injuries. Kevin Fox said he saw Catherwood drive away from the scene.
“An F-150, it was a white, older 2-door model, hit this family from behind,” said Fox. “As I pulled off to the side of the road, they started their truck up and took off. Before I knew it, I realized there was some damage on the front hood of car. But I didn’t have time to get the license plate or snap a picture. I was more concerned with getting help to the car that was in the median.”
Catherwood was also charged with three counts of DUI with Property Damage, two counts of DUI with Serious INjuries and once count of Driving While License is Suspended Causing Death or Serious Injury.
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