OAKLAND PARK, FLORIDA — A 14-year-old girl died after a collision with a Broward deputy’s patrol car that was so violent that it tore off the back end of the car in which she was riding.
According to authorities, Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Frank McCurrie did not have his emergency lights or sirens on as he traveled south on Dixie Highway. His patrol car collided with a Honda Civic heading north and turning left at Northeast 56th Street.
Passenger Cara Catlin, 14, was killed. The driver, her stepsister Heather Meyer, 21, and another passenger, Gabriel Alegria, were injured and taken to Broward General Medical Center.
McCurrie was taken to Holy Cross Hospital with minor injuries.
“It’s not OK with us that he didn’t have his [emergency] lights on,” said Catlin’s aunt, Edie Bronder, of Port Saint Lucie. “My niece is dead and we are angry about that.”
Bronder said Catlin, a freshman at Northeast High School in Oakland Park, and Meyer were on their way to grab something to eat when the crash happened just before 10 p.m. Saturday.
“Had his [emergency] lights been on, she would have never have made that turn,” Bronder said.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Officials could not say Sunday whether the deputy was responding to a call or was off duty at the time.
“That will all come out during the investigation,” said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella.
Broward Sheriff’s officials said it was not immediately known how fast the two cars were going or which driver may have been at fault.
Witness Jonathan Vaden, 23, said he was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk when he saw the crash. He said Catlin, a friend of his, was thrown from the car.
“I checked her pulse, but…,” he said, shaking his head. Vaden gave a statement to investigators.
The collision was so violent that the Honda’s back end was torn off and landed several yards away.
Friends left a cross, a teddy bear, and flowers at the crash site Sunday.
Kim Young, a teacher at James S. Rickards Middle School, said Catlin had been a peer counselor while a student there. As a volunteer, she helped students make the transition to high school.
“She was always willing to help,” Young said. “She was an inspiration to everyone.”
Friends said the outgoing teen loved her television production classes and cheerleading and thought about becoming a nurse. She was due to have her braces off in two weeks.
“She was always so sweet,” said classmate Alexis Sanchez, 15. “She didn’t deserve this.”
About 100 students and friends held a vigil Sunday evening at the beach off Anglins Fishing Pier at Commercial Boulevard and A1A. Many wore purple and white, two of Catlin’s favorite colors.
They prayed together and released purple and white balloons.
“We got her party balloons because she liked to party,” said Alison Delegal, 19, her coach for an Oakland Park community cheerleading league. “She would love that we gathered here like this.”