News Cast 6/15

News Cast for June 15th:

A 63 year old Okeechobee woman is dead, a 74 year old Okeechobee man is dead and an eight year old Okeechobee boy is in serious condition following a vehicle accident Friday afternoon in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the woman was driving a sedan southbound on Highway 98 North just after noon at the same time a pickup truck was coming from the opposite direction on 98. Inexplicably, the woman driving the sedan could not stay in her lane and she drifted into the opposite lane where her car collided head on with the pickup truck near Atland Recycling on the 22 hundred block of Highway 98. The impact sent the woman’s sedan off the road and onto the shoulder before colliding with a concrete wall. Both the sedan driver and her male passenger were pronounced dead by on-scene medics and the eight year old boy passenger was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The pickup truck driver, a 68 year old Okeechobee woman and her male passenger were treated for minor injuries. The accident forced the closure of the road in both directions for about three to four hours. It’s under investigation. Names of people involved in the accident are not releasable due to Marsy’s Law.

A rousing success. That is the adjective most people would use when describing how the free COVID-19 testing went in the city of Okeechobee this past Friday. Members of the state emergency management team came down to the city from Tallahassee in Governor Ron DeSantis’s Mobile Lab Bus to administer free Coronavirus tests for over five hundred people in City Hall Park. Chevy Deacon, one of the testing officials, says he and his team have been throughout the state administering tests and he says Okeechobee was the best turnout of people for this testing by far and he attributed that to good advertising. Deacon says besides a very orderly group of people coming in to be tested, there weren’t really anyone being nervous about the whole process. Deacon gave special thanks to the city and county for helping to organize this event, which was put together by Commissioner Terry Burroughs and City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca. For those who couldn’t be tested on Friday, you can go to the County Health Department on Saturday to be tested between 7am and 10am.

Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through the routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste. Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency for another week during their Thursday meeting.

Along with the Wal-Mart parking lot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 9am each day, 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 Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Friday.  This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library 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 County Library phone number/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 or the Center for Disease Control at

Okeechobee City residents and others are getting closer to being able to purchase alcohol anytime they choose in the city limits on Sundays. During their last meeting, the city council had their first reading of a proposed ordinance that would allow anyone to purchase alcohol at any time on Sunday and they do not have to wait and the reading went without any objection from the public. It was accepted for a second reading by the council in the near future but Mayor Dowling Watford dissented, saying Sunday is a special day for worship and we should recognize that and alcohol sales should wait until the afternoon (Watford-Sunday Alcohol Sales Ordinance 1). The proposed ordinance will have a second reading on July 7th and if there’s no objection at that time, it will be made an official city ordinance.

On the arrest report:

27 year old Haley Juliana James of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of marijuana. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

27 year old Anthony Sanchez of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, fentanyl, drug paraphernalia resisting arrest and possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $47 thousand dollars.

62 year old Ronald Riggs of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

41 year old Ariel Zaleta Leines of Okeechobee was arrested for violating an injunction from a previous domestic violence incident. She’s being held without bond.

27 year old James Lyle Carnley of Okeechobee, an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for battery on another inmate. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

23 year old Neal Ellis James of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on a person over the age of 65. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

39 year old Sandra Jeannette Garza of Indiantown was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and a concealed weapon by a convicted felon after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $12 thousand dollars.