FHP continues search for hit-and-run driver who struck family

- The Florida Highway Patrol is searching for the driver who hit a father, mother, and child, and drove off. It happened Friday night in Holiday on Bonita Road approaching Holiday Drive.

Troopers know exactly who they're looking for and what car he was driving, but since the crash, they don't know where he disappeared to.

Friday night, around 10 p.m., Justin Osborn was driving to work on Bonita Road. On the other side of the road, Philip Martinez was pushing his wife, Katharina in a wheelchair as she held their child. There was an SUV headed in their direction.

"He didn't stop or slow down or move over," Osborn recalled. "He just wound up hitting the father and the mother in the wheelchair and the baby. All I saw were parts of the wheelchair go up in the air and the screaming."

While Osborn jumped out of his car to help, the driver who hit them kept going.

"The only thing I heard from the father was, 'Where's my baby? Where's my baby?'" Osborn said. "That's what caused me to stop and he asked me to follow the SUV to get his license plate number."

Osborn called 911, giving turn-by-turn directions and following the driver, identified as James Arthur Vermeersch, to his front door on Redwood Drive. With no means to protect himself, he was advised to leave.

"I wasn't fearing for myself. More than anything, I just wanted to make sure that guy got caught," Osborn said.

According to the crash report, some time later, a trooper went to Vermeersch's home. He wasn't there. Vermeersch's wife told the Trooper "she was asleep at the time of the crash and... her husband was driving the vehicle that evening."

The trooper returned to the home Saturday and Sunday, but found neither Vermeersch nor his wife. A neighbor told the trooper that Vermeersch "and his wife loaded some belongings" into their vehicle early Saturday morning and have not been back since.

The child was flown to the hospital to be treated for injuries.

"I spoke with the parents afterwards," Osborn said. "He said everything was OK with the kid and his wife was a little banged up."

It's a case that makes Osborn hold his own son a little bit tighter.

"I do walk around the neighborhood with my kid," he said. "I have a stroller, so, that could've been us. That could've been my kid getting hurt. That could've been my family."

Vermeersch is believed to be driving a 1998 gold Lincoln Navigator with license plate number FC86V. Troopers aren't sure where he or his wife could have gone. Anyone with information about the suspected driver is asked to contact the FHP by calling *FHP or Crime Stoppers at 800-873-TIPS.

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