Accused drunk driver kills 5-year-old girl, injures 2 others in head-on Auburndale crash: Grady Judd

A five-year-old girl is dead, and a suspected drunk driver is behind bars following a head-on crash in Auburndale early Friday morning. 

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Robert Harrison, 24, was driving northbound on 42nd Street just after midnight in the unincorporated area of Winter Haven when he crossed a double yellow line and slammed head-on into a black Dodge Caravan. 

First responders found five-year-old Madeline Nichols dead at the scene of the crash. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said she was killed instantly. 

The child’s mother, 32-year-old Jacqueline Nichols, was driving the van at the time of the crash and was taken to an area hospital in critical condition. 

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Justin Jones, 33, of Winter Haven, was a passenger in the Caravan and also suffered critical injuries in the crash, according to investigators. 

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff's Office

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff's Office

Deputies say Harrison admitted that he had been drinking alcohol prior to the crash.

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According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Harrison gave a breath sample, which showed a Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.119 and 0.122. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

"This 5-year-old baby’s life was snuffed out because Robert Harrison was drunk and driving," Judd stated.

Robert Harrison mugshot courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Robert Harrison mugshot courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office. 

After the two vehicles collided, a white Ford pickup truck, driven by a 21-year-old from Eagle Lake, struck Harrison's truck. The Eagle Lake man was uninjured.

"Our heart and prayers go out to the family of the baby that lost her life and we can assure everyone that Robert Harrison will feel the full impact of the criminal justice system," Judd vowed. "Because of his stupidness of drinking and driving, this baby’s life has been snuffed out and that’s totally unacceptable."

Harrison has been arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury, DUI property damage, DUI and violation of probation. 

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