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FHP searching for truck driver in deaths of FSDB students

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Updated: 10/09/2013 6:25 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the attorney for a person of interest in the case of a hit-and-run crash that killed two deaf people Monday has contacted them.

According to troopers, a south Florida attorney for Robert Bates, 68, contacted them, but they said they have not had access to Bates or a tractor-trailer believed to have been involved in the crash.

On Tuesday, troopers named Bates, a Sanford resident, as a person of interest in the case.

The crash happened shortly before 8 p.m. in the northbound lanes of the Florida Turnpike, north of the State Road 70.

Investigators said the couple, Vincent T. Mathews, 24, of Lakeland, and Mariah King, 19, of Davenport, were properly off on the road's shoulder changing a tire near Fort Pierce when the truck veered off the main roadway and struck them.

The driver never stopped, authorities said.

King's mother emailed WFTV and wrote that the couple was engaged to be married. She said the pair was a safe distance off the roadway, and that the family wants justice in the case.

Florida Highway Patrol investigators have contacted the company that owns the truck, and the company is cooperating, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Jeanne Glidden Prickett, president of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, where Mathews and King formerly attended, released a statement on Tuesday.

"Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and friends of Vincent T. Mathews of Lakeland and Mariah A. King of Davenport," said Prickett. "This tragedy was clearly preventable and underscores the pressing need for increased safety measures within the commercial trucking industry."

Investigators have spoken with representatives from Mercer Transport from Louisville, Ky. regarding the investigation.

The tractor is described as a dark-colored 2006 Peterbuilt, with right front damage, an Illinois license tag of P769293 and a truck number of 13335 on the left and right front of the vehicle.

The trailer is a Benson flatbed with an Illinois license tag of T495080.

If anyone has information about the tractor-trailer or incident they are urged to contact Cpl. Robert Ruiz from the Florida Highway Patrol at 772-467-3703 Ext 3126 or email at RobertRuiz@flhsmv.gov or contact their local Crime Stoppers.
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