News Cast 5/13

A Guatemala man who was most recently living in North Palm Beach is facing some major charges in connection with a vehicle accident in Okeechobee County on Saturday night that took the life of a young woman. Reports say 26 year old William Edilzar Martin Chavez is being charged with several hit and run counts in connection with Saturday night’s accident. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say Chavez crashed his Ford SUV into another vehicle on State Road 710 in the Taylor Creek neighborhood shortly before 8:30. FHP investigators say the woman, driving what is reportedly a PT Cruiser, was heading home when Chavez, driving erratically in front of her on 54th Avenue, apparently bumped a pickup truck, causing the pickup truck driver to overcorrect to get back onto the road and hit the PT Cruiser head on. Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue crews found the female PT Cruiser driver and her passenger trapped in their vehicle and they had to be cut out of it before being transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce. The woman driver later died from her injuries. Her passenger is still being treated. Meanwhile, Chavez and his passenger, 40 year old Romeo Ramos Lara Lopez, also of North Palm Beach, fled the scene, while taking his license plate with him. Lopez was caught sometime later and he identified Chavez who was picked up Monday at his home. Chavez was arrested and charged with two counts of hit and run, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury and death, causing serious injury with a vehicle, failing to remain at a crash involving injury and death to others and driving without a license. His bond is set at $130 thousand dollars. The name of the deceased woman and her passenger are not being released due to Marsy’s Law.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating a shooting that took place yesterday afternoon. Detectives say the shooting happened at the intersection of NW 36th Street and NW 37th Avenue, just after 2:15. Detectives say there was a law officer involved in the shooting. All suspects are in custody at this time and there was no danger to the community, but the intersection and roads near there were closed to motorists for a while. Names of people arrested and injured in this incident and what events led to the shooting are not known at this time.

Last week, thanks to the Treasure Coast Food Bank, Okeechobee County had their second food pantry in as many weeks at the Agri-Civic Center and it was a rousing success. Mayor Dowling Watford says last week’s food bank was so successful, they actually ran out of vouchers for people that were eligible to attend. That means at least 750 people showed up in their vehicles to benefit from the food that this food bank provided which made it better than the previous one. The food bank from the week before served somewhere between five hundred and six hundred people. Watford says there were plenty of volunteers for this food bank to help out and not just from the immediate area.

Watford says it’s unusual that the Treasure Coast Food Bank would do a food pantry two weeks in a row but the fact they like coming to Okeechobee to do this and the way it is set up here at the Agri-Civic Center made them come back for a second straight week.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County remains at 28 as of last evening. 27 of the 28 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 45. Five of the patients have been hospitalized. County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says people who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, Collins says other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of the sense of smell or sense of taste.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced state parks have reopened access to trails and some day-use areas last week, including some beach access with limited facilities. People must practice proper social distancing and limit group size to no more than ten people and stay six feet apart. More information can be found by logging on to www.floridastateparks.com.

Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have re-opened several district managed lands for active recreation only. In re-opening them, the Water Management District officials say they will continue to follow recommendations from Governor DeSantis and others to minimize activities that result in large gatherings. Active recreational activities like hiking, biking, boating and fishing are allowed. Passive activities like picnicking, camping and gatherings of more than ten people are not permitted. For more information on re-opened District areas, log on to their website at SFWMD.gov/recreation.

Select Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) managed lands in South Florida have also re-opened with limited public use. Log on to www.myfwc.com for more information.

To get an idea of what restaurants or other businesses are open or closed in Okeechobee County, please log on to our website at www.wokc.com.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus at the Okeechobee County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. If you’re not sure if you fit the criteria to be tested, please call the county health department and they’ll let you know for sure. These testing sites are available on weekends.

The Health Care District of Palm Beach County is expanding its ongoing COVID-19 testing for residents in Glades communities. Since last month, the Health Care District has offered testing on a walk-up basis with no appointment outside the C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinic at Lakeside Medical Center on the 39 thousand block of Hooker Highway in Belle Glade. Appointments are now necessary and you can do that by calling (561) 642-1000. Patients can access the drive-thru testing lane or you can park and walk up to the existing site. Individuals can be any age and don’t need to have symptoms to be registered and tested. Results will be sent by a Health Care District provider as soon as possible.

Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee remains on lockdown and they are not allowing any visitors to patients at this time.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Friday.  This hotline is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121.

Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

Towards the end of last month, the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida along with the United Way recently held a food bank in Moore Haven. The food bank was held at the Chalo Nitka Grounds on April 28th and it was a rousing success. Nicole Reid, News Director for our sister station WAFC in Clewiston, recently spoke with Lisa Sands, Hendry/Glades manager for United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties and Sands spoke on the success of that food bank and those who made it possible. 

Sands also thanked the people of Perry Farms in Moore Haven for providing the fresh watermelons for this food bank.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Melissa Ann Carter of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to leave someone’s property after being told to leave. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

24 year old Collin Timothy Henderson of Okeechobee was arrested for unauthorized use of a credit card and fraud. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.

39 year old Daniel Lamar Tindall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for two counts of grand theft and dealing in stolen property. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

39 year old Jack Edward Jernigan of Okeechobee was arrested by police for simple assault and battery of a person over the age of 65. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.