12-Year-Old Seriously Injured in Umatilla Hit-and-Run Accident
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Two Arrested After Child Struck by Car and Dragged in Hit-and-Run Crash in Umatilla

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A 12-year-old child was seriously injured on Monday morning, January 21, while waiting for a school bus, and the hit-and-run driver is now in custody.

Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officials say that Lake County sheriff’s deputies responded to Thomas Boat Landing Road in Umatilla around 7:40 AM following reports of the hit-and-run crash. A witness told police that a 12-year-old child had been hit by a silver 2015 Chevrolet Malibu, after the car’s driver ran a stop sign and went off the road. The car crashed into the child, who “became lodged under (the vehicle) and was dragged a short distance.” Ultimately he was freed from the car and left to suffer with his injuries while the driver sped off.

Fortunately, the driver of the bus the child was waiting for arrived in time to see the car and get a description of the driver. The bus driver also called for medical aid and stayed with the boy until help arrived. The child was then airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries.

Authorities later determined the car was driven by 19-year-old Christian Ames Messick of Leesburg. After an extensive land and air search, a K9 unit tracked Messick and 24-year-old Mariano Keano Taclay to an RV parked on private property near County Road 42. The property owner told authorities the RV should have been unoccupied. Eventually three people exited the RV, one of whom was a woman Messick and Taclay had been holding against her will. She told authorities they also dumped a bag of firearms into a nearby body of water, which they later recovered.

Messick was charged with leaving the scene of a crash causing a serious injury and driving without a license. He and Taclay are also currently being charged with burglary and false imprisonment, with additional charges to follow regarding the firearms.

Florida has one of the highest rates of hit-and-run crashes, and not every driver is caught. One study found that 2016 was the year with the highest number of fatal hit-and-run crashes with 2,049 deaths — a 60 percent increase since 2009. New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida have the highest rates of deaths in these types of accidents. Drivers who do get arrested following a hit-and-run may also be liable for the victim’s injuries.