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Oh, deer! Routine crash turns into inferno

Staff writer

It was a typical night for Kelly and Kim Kroupa of rural Marion.

At 9:14 p.m. Thursday, they were heading home on K-15 with their 14-year-old son, Kole, after a baseball tournament at Rural Center Elementary School in Abilene.

A mile or two north of the Tampa corner, as has happened to 165 Marion County drivers in the past 12 months, a deer struck their 2013 Chevrolet Traverse.

Kelly steered the car, damaged only in its left front corner, to the side of the road.

A deep ditch caused the vehicle to hang up on grass. He tried to move the vehicle, but it wouldn’t move.

Suddenly, sparks flew from underneath. Grass caught on fire, and soon the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

Kelly thinks the impact may have started a small fire, which he initially didn’t notice, before he moved the vehicle off the highway.

He, Kim, and Kole were able to escape before fire spread.

“We had plenty of time to get out,” Kelly said.

Kim and other passing motorists called 911. Reception was not reliable, so it took several attempts to get connected to dispatchers.

Tampa firefighters arrived promptly, Kim said, along with Durham firefighters and sheriff’s deputies. The vehicle was fully aflame when they arrived.

Water was still being poured onto the burned-out car when Jason and Amy Plett of Lincolnville arrived. They took Kole to his grandparents’ house about three miles south.

“We were able to recover Kole’s prized baseball bag and our two lawn chairs before the car became engulfed,” Kim said. “He was, however, extremely upset about those things kids love most — his Crocs and Oakleys!”

Kim lost her phone in the fire. She had replaced it by Saturday, when the baseball tournament concluded with Kole’s Centre team taking second place.

“Thank you to those who have reached out to us to make sure we are OK,” she said. “We are, and we are extremely grateful that the good Lord helped us walk away without a scratch.”

Remains of the vehicle were towed.

In the five-year period that ended July 1, 44.5% of all accidents reported in Marion County involved deer.

The number of deer accidents reported has increased annually for three years, according to analysis of accident reports provided to the newspaper.

In the 12 months that ended July 1, county law enforcement agencies reported 165 accidents involving deer, up from 139 in the previous 12-month period and from 112 in the 12-month period before that.

Although later models of the Traverse were recalled because of a potential fire hazard involving leaking transmission fluid, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records indicate no unresolved fire-related recalls involving the Kroupas’ Traverse.

Last modified July 19, 2023

 

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