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Early Morning Crash Sends Car Into Pond Off Hwy 27

Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies are investigating a two-vehicle crash that occurred at about 6:00 a.m. Saturday, December 2, 2017.

According to the preliminary investigation, both vehicles were travelling southbound on Hwy 27, south of Hwy 17/92 in Haines City.

A white 1999 Buick sedan, driven by 26-year old Hakeem McGhee of Winter Haven, struck the left-rear bumper of a black 2007 Mercedes 350, which was being driven by 25-year old Paris Allen of Haines City. After the impact, McGhee’s vehicle crossed the median, and the northbound lanes, before driving off of the east side of the roadway and into a retention pond near Morris Ranch Road.

Six units from the Winter Haven Fire Department responded to find the vehicle almost completely submerged in a retention pond off the roadway. Lt. Justin Riner and firefighter Jon Hinkle jumped into the 20 ft deep water where the vehcile was quickly continuing to submerge. With only the trunk lid visible on the surface, Lt. Riner was able to punch the back window out of the car and kick the glass away in order to access the interior of the vehicle. As his foot entered the vehicle compartment, he felt a body and immediately dove down inside through the opening. Lt. Riner was able to pull the unresponsive driver, McGhee to the surface and with the assistance of firefighter Hinkle, McGhee was taken to the shore of the pond and handed over to firefighter Roberto Morales and Lt Medic Kyle Miller. On shore, Miller and Paramedic Marty Johnson administered life-saving care. McGhee was ultimately airlifted to Lakeland Regional Health.

Lt. Riner and firefighter Hinkle both went back to ensure there were no other occupants inside of the vehicle submerged in the murky water. There were no other occupants inside so they returned to the shore of the pond. A Dundee fire squad that responded attached a winch to the vehicle and pulled it out of the water confirming there were no other occupants inside.

McGhee later succumbed to his injuries at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. Ms Allen was not injured. Neither driver was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

It is unknown if impairment was a factor with McGhee, but his speed is being considered as contributing to the crash.

Hwy 27 was shut down in both directions until about 10:00 a.m. to allow for the rescue, investigation, and clean-up of the crash. The investigation is ongoing.

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