Sanford man sought in fatal hit-and-run on Florida Turnpike

2 killed in wreck; troopers search for 68-year-old Robert Bates


SANFORD, Fla. – Florida Highway Patrol says it has been contacted by the attorney of the hit-and-run driver, believed to be a Sanford man, who crashed a tractor-trailer into two deaf people changing a tire on the shoulder of the Turnpike near Fort Pierce, killing both of them.

The FHP identified 68-year-old Robert Bates as a person of interest in the crash, which happened about 7:45 p.m. Monday.  Neither Bates nor his truck have been located, but FHP tells Local 6 an attorney representing the trucker has contacted troopers in South Florida.

"Somebody contacted troopers in St. Lucie County in charge of the investigation and said he was representing Mr. Bates," said Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes.  "He did not provide any additional information, did not provide his whereabouts, did not provide the whereabouts of the vehicle."

The victims were identified as 19-year-old Mariah King, of Davenport, and 24-year-old Vincent Mathews, of Lakeland.  King and Mathews, former students at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, died at the scene along the northbound Turnpike near mile marker 166, which is near Ft. Pierce.

Investigators are still searching for the big rig.

The FHP described the big rig as a dark-colored Peterbilt tractor with the tag P769-293 and front-end damage to the lower right of the bumper.  It was pulling a trailer with the Illinois tag T495-080.

Bates has received four careless driving tickets in the last decade, records show.  He's been in one minor crash over the last few years, officials said.

The highway patrol continues to investigate.