Tonight, a warning for drivers along a portion of Florida’s Turnpike: Rocks are being thrown at cars. Now, authorities are targeting those behind this “Highway Hazard.” Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN — Trouble is piling up on the Turnpike in Southwest Miami-Dade. Rocks litter both sides of the southbound lanes near the 288th Street exit, and the debris is throwing drivers for a loop.
Sally Quiroz: “On the corner of my eye I see something. I thought it was a bird.”
It was 10:30 at night, and Sally Quiroz was about to exit off the Turnpike near her home when it hit.
Sally Quiroz: “You could feel the rock just tearing apart under the car. It actually made the back of my tire bump up.”
But the projectile that caused $1,300 in damage to the front of Sally’s Chrysler did not hit her car by accident. The rock appears to have been launched as a weapon.
Sally Quiroz: “My son, who was sitting in the back seat, says, ‘Mom, someone just threw a rock.’ We looked back and saw someone in a light-colored shorts, running toward the houses.”
This housing complex is literally a stone’s throw away from the Turnpike. There are grassy areas on the other side of a barbed wire fence where we found plenty of ammunition.
Sally Quiroz: “It could have hit my windshield, it could have killed one of us, as big as the rock was.”
And one has killed, on this same stretch of road. In 2002, a mother was riding in this rental truck when a rock was thrown through the windshield. It struck her in the head.
The 47-year-old died at the hospital. Homicide detectives were on the scene then, and authorities are hoping to avoid a repeat tragedy.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez: “Right now it is an active investigation, because we’ve had in the past a very serious incident where someone had lost their life.”
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez believes children who live in the area are hurling the rocks, and that this time of year the danger heats up.
Trooper Joe Sanchez: “During the summer, when the kids are out of school, it becomes a problem for us. We’ve had numerous calls out there.”
7News has obtained police reports and call logs that reveal at least 14 cars have been hit in the past two months. But identifying those responsible is difficult.
Trooper Joe Sanchez: “They’ll come out of the complex, they’ll throw rocks when the troopers aren’t there, then they run back in.”
FHP is working with Turnpike officials on a solution that may include a wall or additional fencing. And troopers are confident they will catch the criminals.
Trooper Joe Sanchez: “Sooner or later, whoever is out there throwing rocks, I guarantee you that we’re going to arrest them.”
Until that happens, one mother who considers her and her family lucky has a reminder for the reckless kids.
Sally Quiroz: This could be your mother, it could be your grandmother. Unfortunately, you can kill someone.”
And that is the message authorities hope hits home. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
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