PALATKA, Fla. – The cousin of a 4-year-old boy struck by an SUV and killed Friday morning in Palatka said the child was trying to follow his grandfather to a nearby store at the time, and his grandfather didn't realize it.
Troopers said a 33-year-old Interlachen woman was driving her SUV east on State Road 20 near Silver Lake Road about 7:30 a.m. Friday when Tripp Hudson entered the road in front of her.
“He came out of the house and followed him across. He knew he was going to the store, walking, and he paid no attention, and he walked across in front of a car,” said Terry Owens, Tripp's cousin.
The driver, who News4Jax is not naming, tried to brake but hit Tripp with the front left of her SUV's bumper, according to the crash report. She stayed at the scene and cooperated with the FHP investigation, troopers said.
Tripp was airlifted to UF Health Jacksonville in critical condition and died at the hospital.
Tripp's cousin said the 4-year-old was adopted by his grandparents and raised in their Palatka home.
According to family, Tripp's grandfather was walking to a Mobil gas station Friday morning when Tripp followed behind him, trying to cross the busy street. Unfortunately, the grandfather didn't know Tripp was tagging along.
“He was supposed to been in the house, watching TV,” Owens said.
Owens said he got a call Friday morning from a friend, telling him Tripp was hit by a car. He said he went out to the scene and saw the evidence of the crash.
Owens said the family is heartbroken but will remember Tripp's playful spirit.
“We never had something like this happen (before), especially right here at our home,” Owens said. “Every day we go out, you'll see him. Out in that street.”
Troopers said the investigation is ongoing.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said there are certain factors investigators consider before investigators determine if the boy's family could face charges.
“Sometimes, these things just happen," Smith said. "Just bad accidents happen that don’t necessarily require criminal charges.”
Attorney Gene Nichols said a charge relevant to this type of case would be child neglect, but that’s only if the state determines that.
Both Nichols and Smith said, most of the time, prosecutors do not press charges in situations like this.
“These types of things people need to discuss with their kids because, especially if they live in heavily trafficked areas, talk about if they’re staying inside or having some sort of child protection set up in the home," Smith said.
Smith said it’s always best to make sure someone is keeping an eye on children at all times.