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Troopers ID driver in wrong-way crash that left 3 St. Marys family members dead

Nov. 16 fatal crash on State Road 24 in Alachua County

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – A wrong-way driver that was involved in last month’s head-on crash that left three members of a Georgia family dead has been identified, the Florida Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

The crash happened the night of Nov. 16 in Alachua County.

According to the Highway Patrol, a Hyundai Elantra was going west in the eastbound lanes of State Road 24/Waldo Road near Northeast 69th Way about 11:40 p.m. when it collided head-on with a Toyota Rav4 traveling east.

The driver of the Hyundai died and was not immediately identified, as troopers said the vehicle was damaged in a fire after the collision. Troopers said Tuesday that they were able to identify the driver of the Hyundai as Michael Russell, 51, of Ocala, through dental records.

Troopers previously said the driver of the Toyota -- Christopher Hesling, 30, of St. Marys, Georgia -- and one of the passengers -- Brittany Hesling, 31, also of St. Marys -- died. The FHP report shows Brittany Hesling was not wearing a seat belt.

The couple’s two children were also in the vehicle. The FHP report shows 4-year-old Jack Hesling and 6-month-old Maggie Hesling were taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Troopers said the boy suffered critical injuries and died Sunday evening at the hospital. The girl suffered minor injuries.

A former Georgia police officer was among a group of people who helped rescue the baby girl, who was the only member of the family to survive the fiery crash.

As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe account has raised nearly $53,000 for the child.

Christopher and Brittany Hesling were high school sweethearts. They were crowned Effingham County High School’s prom king and queen.


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