Lakeland Police Department Press Release
LAKELAND, FL (July 21, 2017) – On July 20th, at approximately 6:28 p.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to a traffic fatality in the 5900 Block of State Road 33. A red, 1998 Ford Ranger 2 door truck was northbound and a white 2012 Saddle Creek Freightliner Semi-Tractor Trailer was southbound. The Semi-Tractor was slowing down in the turn lane to turn left onto North Combee Road. A silver in color 2008 Dodge Caravan was also traveling southbound in the 5900 block of SR 33, traveling behind the Freightliner Semi. At the time of the crash, there was heavy rainfall and the roadways were wet.
As the Ford Ranger was traveling northbound, the Ford Ranger lost control and began sliding. After losing control, the Ford Ranger went over the raised concrete median and went head on into oncoming traffic and collided with the Freightliner Semi head on. The force of the collision caused the Ford Ranger to spin around facing south. While the Ford Ranger was spinning, a tool box from the bed of the Ford Ranger was ejected and struck the Dodge Caravan which was traveling southbound on SR 33. After colliding head-on with the Ford Ranger, the Freightliner Semi came to final rest just off the west side of the roadway. The Dodge Caravan came to a controlled stop just south of the impact location.
Lakeland Police Department, Polk County Fire Rescue, and the Lakeland Fire Department all arrived on scene and began to provide life saving measures and securing the scene. The Ford Ranger operator was deceased on the scene,Rachel R. Gunter, 41 years old of Polk City, as determined by PCFR/LFD. The operators of the Freightliner Semi and Dodge Caravan suffered no injuries.
Members of the Traffic Homicide Unit responded to the scene and took over the investigation. The preliminary investigation revealed that the Ford Ranger lost control and began sliding, ultimately going over the raised median into oncoming traffic. Per witness statements, the Freightliner Semi had nowhere to go and collided head on with the Ford Ranger. The roadway was shut down for approximately 4 hours during the investigation.