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Why was 14-year-old behind wheel in deadly crash? | News

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Why was 14-year-old behind wheel in deadly crash?

FORT MEADE, Florida -- Early Tuesday afternoon two young girls knelt in prayer and left notes at the front door step of their 8-year-old friend, Delany Ensslin, who they called "Tink," killed in a car crash a day before.

"The first night that my momma told me, I was crying," said 7-year-old Haleigh Gunn, who walked to school and church with Tink.

The crash also killed Ensslin's mother, Dawn.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Destiny, a 9th grade student at Kathleen High School, was behind the wheel and at fault in the crash, according to Polk County investigators.

Deputies say she tried to cross U.S. 17 at County Road 640, but was hit by a minivan. None of the people in the other two vehicles involved were seriously hurt.

Deputies say they won't know why the unlicensed 14-year-old was driving until they can talk to her. They aren't able to yet, because she suffered extremely critical injuries.

Friends of family also started leaving balloons and stuffed animals at the intersection on Tuesday.

"To explain to my 7-year-old that she's lost one of her little friends, it's hard," said family friend Kelli Holley.

The family was very active at First Baptist Church in Fort Meade, where Dawn volunteered regularly. She worked in the cafeteria at Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, where her 8-year-old was in 3rd grade.

"Kids loved her.  Always giving her hugs.  She would collect trays.  I have some kids that wouldn't leave the cafeteria without hugging her.  Always a smile on her face," said Assistant Principal Dana Bakos.

Some community members speculated Tuesday that Dawn may have been teaching her daughter how to drive. Friends say no matter the reason, it doesn't make the situation any less tragic.

"It's heartbreaking," Holley said.

Church leaders say they expect a special prayer Wednesday night at their regular gathering.

The Ensslin family released a statement Tuesday telling 10 News, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were involved in this tragic accident. We'd like to express our heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of support from the community. We ask that you please respect our privacy now as we mourn the untimely loss of our loved ones."


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