Husband of southern Indiana postal worker who drowned delivering mail says her death was preventableBy Guest Nicole
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Officials in southern Indiana now confirm an accidental drowning killed a postal worker delivering mail in Madison.
Teelah Kappeler, 31 died Saturday.
Her husband, Mark Kappeler, said her car was found upside down, flipped on its top in a creek off Little Brushy Fork Road. It's believed she was knocked unconscious before the accidental drowning.
The couple had been married 11 years when their life together was cut short.
“The road that the accident happened on, it's a one-lane road. It's gravel,” Kappeler said.
On Saturday, Teelah Kappeler was delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service when she never came home. She had only been on the job several weeks.
“Just potholes everywhere, the sides of the road, you can see, have been eroding,” Kappeler said. “She told me, basically, this is the longest, hardest route that is anywhere around this area.”
Officials in Jefferson County said her car went off the road and landed in a creek likely from high water. She was still wearing a seatbelt but was stuck upside down. The coroner said she died from an accidental drowning.
“It’s the worst time of my life,” Kappeler said.
He believes there should have been warning signs and a guardrail in this area.
“This is totally an unnecessary loss," Kappeler said. "It should never have happened."
Despite what he's been through, he's staying positive for his two young daughters.
“We had something special that so many people don't ever find," Kappeler said. "We loved each other, every moment we had."
Now he’s left relish on precious moments and happy memories spent together as a family.
“I would have liked to have had so much more time, so many more years with her," Kappeler said. "I'm very thankful for the time we have had together."
Services for Teelah Kappeler will be held on Saturday at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Madison, Indiana.
By Guest Nicole
MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida family is speaking out days after an 83-year-old, wheelchair-bound woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver on her way to church in Miami.
Margaret Ruiz’s loved ones are seeking solace in their faith. “You can’t avoid these things that happen in life, but we have to believe, and we have to have trust and love and faith,” said Lucy Ruiz, the victim’s sister.
Lucy, 73, said she is still in shock over how her older sister was killed. “It’s very upsetting to hear that. So sudden,” she said.
Grainy surveillance video captured her as she traveled on her electric wheelchair down the sidewalk, near Northeast 62nd Street and Second Avenue, moments before, police said, she was struck by a four-door, dark-colored sedan, Wednesday evening.
“If she were here, I would just tell her how much I love her,” said Lucy.
Margaret, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, was heading to religious services at the time of the hit-and-run.
The surveillance footage shows the car involved in the crash fleeing from the scene.
Margaret leaves behind five children. One of her sons, Barry Pantoja, arrived to South Florida from New York with his entire family on Monday.
“She was my whole world for many years, and she loved her family very much,” he said.
Pantoja said his mother was a devoted mother and an esteemed member of her faith community. “She was loved, and she really appreciated, in so many ways, the way people extended themselves to her and her congregation,” he said.
Pantoja said Margaret moved to Florida to live with her sister. Over the years, she became isolated from her family and never returned to her home in New York.
Relatives said Margaret eventually fell on hard times and became homeless. She later moved into an affordable housing community.
Lakeisha Ware, Margaret’s case manager, helped the elderly woman transition off the streets.
“It’s hard because you have to have a mother. She is somebody’s mother. She’s somebody’s grandmother,” said Ware. How can you do that to a person and not look back?”
Amid their grief and pain, Margaret’s family hopes to see her again. “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we believe in a resurrection, and I actually look forward to the day I see my mother again,” said Pantoja as he held back tears. “It’s the hope we all hold in our faith, and it’s the only thing that keeps us from being totally devastated.”
If you have any information on this hit-and-run, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.
By The Librarian
MLK crash kills five, including two Tampa children ages 9 and 10
By Tony Marrero, Sara DiNatale and Anastasia Dawson, Times Staff Writers
TAMPA — Marianela Murillo spent the last evening of her life in one of her favorite places.
The 39-year-old Colombian immigrant attended services Wednesday at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall off E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The congregation prayed and read the Bible.
Afterward, Murillo piled into her Toyota Sienna minivan with her three children and a niece and headed for their apartment about a mile and a half away.
"I hugged and kissed them goodbye," said friend and fellow church member Marcia Santana.
Pablo Cortes III spent the last evening of his life in one of his favorite places, too.
The 22-year-old Brandon man attended a meet-up of fellow car enthusiasts at the Grand Prix go-kart track in Tampa, a friend said. Cortes showed off his metallic blue Volkswagen Golf with the custom rims and tricked-out suspension, then left with a friend in his passenger seat.
Soon after, the Volkswagen and Toyota collided on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard Jr. in one of the most horrific local crashes in recent memory.
Murillo and two of her children, Maria, 10, and John, 9, died at the scene. So did Cortes and his passenger, 19-year-old Jolie Bartolome of Lithia.
Cortes was exceeding the posted 50 mph speed limit, but investigators were still working to determine his actual speed, said a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, Sgt. Steve Gaskins.
Although early reports at the scene indicated the crash may have been caused by street racing, Gaskins said troopers don't have any evidence to support that. A preliminary report states Cortes was driving in a "careless or negligent manner."
UPDATE: SnapChat video appears to show driver going 115 mph on night of crash that killed 5
"There were no cars around him right where the crash occurred so racing was not a factor," Gaskins said. "But speed was."
Investigators say Cortes lost control near Coconut Palm Drive, just east of the Tampa Bypass Canal, and crossed the grassy median.
Murillo was heading east and was about to turn into her apartment complex when the Volkswagen collided nearly head-on with the Toyota.
The Volkswagen then rotated and hit a Toyota Scion. Its driver, Carla Marie Wyman, 54, of Seffner, suffered serious injuries. The force of the collision crumpled the Golf into a mass of metal that hardly resembled a car. The Sienna caught fire.
Murillo's 18-year-old daughter, Lina Bernal, and 15-year-old niece Luisa Louisa, who was visiting on vacation from Colombia, were taken to Tampa General Hospital with critical injuries.
Murillo's husband and the father of the children, John Bernal, was at the hospital but too distraught to talk, said Santana, the family friend.
Lina was in critical condition but able to ask what happened.
"They don't want to tell her yet," Santana said.
On Wednesday night, Murillo's sister, Paola Murillo, looked over at the crash scene with her brother-in-law, refusing to believe her family could be inside the scorched mini-van, according to a Facebook post she wrote in Spanish.
The nightmare of Wednesday night keeps playing back in her head, she wrote. She recalled her brother-in-law telling her, "that is the car of my wife and my kids."
"I answered no. It's a car that looks like it. It's not hers," Paola Murillo wrote. "Then why isn't she answering her phone . . . and why haven't they arrived home?
"Until the end, God knows I had all the hope."
Santana said the couple has lived in the United States for about 15 years and that Marianela became a citizen just a few months ago.
Her passion was her church and knocking on strangers' doors to tell them about God's promise to create a paradise on earth. She loved to cook and was known for her pupusa, a tortilla stuffed with beans, meat and cheese.
The kids were sweet, happy and loving, like their mother, Santana said.
Maria and John attended Mango Elementary, said Hillsborough School District spokeswoman Tanya Arja. Maria was in fifth grade, and John was in fourth, Arja said.
Grief counselors were at the school Thursday to help students and staff. The students expressed themselves in sympathy cards.
"I was crying," one classmate wrote. "They were to young to die."
Cortes was proud of his high-performance Volkswagen. The car dominated his social media accounts.
Brown-haired and bespectacled, Cortes drove the VW to area meet-ups where he shared his love for automobiles, said local car enthusiast Sean LeRoux.
LeRoux, 24 , of Clearwater said Cortes was known to be on the "aesthetics" side of the car community. His car wasn't meant to be a full-blown race car, but it was souped up and modified. LeRoux said Cortes wasn't known to race other drivers.
Meets-ups like the one he attended Wednesday were a time to show off modifications: custom rims, grills, suspensions.
"You hang out," said Dakota Hull, 21, of Valrico.
On Wednesday night, Hull stayed home sick while Cortes went to a routine meet-up with friends. It was the first time most of them had met Jolie Bartolome. She was a 2015 graduate of Gulf Breeze High School in the Panhandle and an avid dancer, according to a memorial page on Facebook.
When Hull got the call about the crash, he rushed to the scene. He saw Cortes' car from the roadside, barely recognizable.
Friends wrote on the group's Facebook page that Cortes would forever be missed. They also mourned Murillo and her children.
"Family members of Cortes and Bartolome could not be reached for comment.
Santana said her friend would forgive Cortes for whatever role his actions played in the crash. So will her friends and family.
"Their family is suffering the same way Marianela's family is suffering," Santana said. "And I hope they find peace."
Times staff writer Paul Guzzo and senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
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