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Guatemalan man with no valid driver’s license and illegally in the country arrested during the Willow Oak double fatal crash investigation

On Tuesday, May 9, 2023, Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested 24-year-old Elmer Bryan Giron-Canil of Mulberry for 1) negligently operating a motor vehicle and causing serious injury or death to a person while not possessing a driver’s license (F3)(6 counts) and 2) driving without a valid license (M2)(1 count). Canil is a Guatemalan citizen in the U.S. illegally. 

Deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with Polk County Fire Rescue, were dispatched at about 5:41 a.m., to the crash scene on S.R. 60 West near the intersection of Pine Grove Road in Willow Oak near Mulberry.

Upon arrival of first responders, a 33-year-old man was found deceased. He was a passenger in a silver 2007 Ford Expedition that was driven by Canil. A second passenger, a 62-year-old man, was transported to an area hospital where he died from his injuries. 

Four other passengers were in Canil’s Expedition. They were transported to area hospitals where they are being treated for their injuries; two are in stable condition, one is in critical-stable condition, and one is in critical-unstable condition.

The second driver, an 18-year-old Bartow High School student, was transported to an area hospital where she is being treated for her injuries and is in stable condition. She was driving a red 1996 Chevrolet 1500 pick-up truck. 

Based on evidence and witness statements, detectives have so far determined that the Chevrolet was traveling east on S.R. 60 W and in the inside lane. At the same time, Canil was driving west on S.R. 60 W and entered the left turn lane in the median. 

As the Chevrolet approached, Canil attempted to turn south onto Pine Grove Road and pulled into the path of the Chevrolet striking the passenger side of the pick-up truck. The impact caused the Chevrolet to spin around and stop facing west in the eastbound travel lanes. The Expedition also spun and four of the passengers were ejected from the SVU; two of whom died. 

Canil told detectives that he saw the headlights of the Chevrolet approaching, but thought he could make it across. He also said he did not have a driver’s license because he was in the country illegally. 

“Not only is Canil in the country illegally, but his criminal actions have cost two people their lives and caused catastrophic injuries to others. Our prayers are with the victims and families affected by this horrific crash.” Grady Judd, Sheriff

Canil was taken to an area hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and then transported to the Polk County Jail. Immigration and Customs Enforcement completed an immigration detainer for Canil after confirming he is illegally in the U.S. 

A portion of S.R. 60 West was closed for approximately 4 hours during the on-site crash investigation.

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Carl Fish

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