TAMPA (FOX 13) - A speeding car is being blamed for a multi-vehicle accident that claimed the lives of five people on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. last night, including two children.
The Florida Highway Patrol said troopers responded to the crash on SR-574 near Coconut Palm Drive, east of the Tampa Bypass Canal, just before 10 p.m. Wednesday.
The five dead have been identified as 22-year-old Pablo Cortez III, who was driving with 19-year-old Jolie Barolome in the passenger seat of one vehicle, and in a mini-van 39-year-old Marianela Murillo, 10-year-old Isabell Bernal, and 9-year-old John Bernal.
There were two others in the mini-van, 15-year-old Luisa Louisa and 18-year-old Lina Bernal, who are both in critical condition.
The passengers in the two other vehicles involved have been identified as 54-year-old Carla Wyman, who sustained serious injuries, and 38-year-old Jamie Reye, who was not injured.
A man who identified himself as a friend of Pablo Cortez spoke with FOX 13. He disclosed that there was a car meet-up that evening in the Tampa Grand Prix parking lot. He recognized Cortez's car as the only vehicle involved in the crash that was part of the car meet-up. He also said Cortez brought his new girlfriend with him that night, who was in the passenger seat.
The man also said that he briefly left the Grand Prix at around 9 p.m. with several other vehicles to get gas. By the time he returned, the road was blocked off as emergency crews attended to the mangled vehicles and their passengers.
A video of the scene posted on Facebook shows a vehicle on one side of the road, and its engine on another. The woman filmed the video using Facebook Live, and can be heard praying and describing the gruesome scene until deputies asked her to leave. She described one vehicle as being "tangled like a ball," and said, "We need some prayers, ya'll. These people are dead."
According to FHP, racing is not believed to be a factor leading to the overnight fatal crash, the vehicle driven by Cortez was traveling at a "high rate of speed" prior to losing control, crossing the median, and crashing.
MLK Jr. Ave was closed and FHP asked motorists to seek alternate routes. The roadway reopened just after 4 a.m.
The family of Marianella Murillo and her two children have created a Go Fund Me page to help with funeral costs as well as medical costs for the two remaining daughters who are in critical condition.
Stay with FOX 13 News for updates on this developing story.