• County rallies around assistant principal, teacher whose toddler suffered brain injury in crash

    By: Nancy Alvarez


    SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - It takes a village to lift a family up in its darkest times -- or in this case, a series of villages.

    Word spread quickly after Patrick and Angel Rocha’s 2-year-old daughter Zoey was in a car accident on Jan. 4. Her grandparents had just picked her up so the Rochas could have a date night together.

    A few minutes after Zoey and her grandparents left for Vierra, a tanker truck pulled out in front of them on East Colonial Drive. Their car was jammed under the wrecked truck.


    “It was shock. That vehicle that left my driveway – that wasn’t the same vehicle,” Patrick Rocha said. 

    Little Zoey suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash. Her grandparents have undergone back surgeries.

    Original coverage: 3 people injured, including toddler, when car passes beneath tanker

    All three have a long road to recovery. But their community – and their county – are determined to make sure they’re not alone.

    This is what was left of the car that Zoey and her parents were in when it crashed earlier this month on East Colonial Drive.
    Orange County Fire Rescue

    The Rochas work at Hagerty High School: Patrick is a teacher; Angel is the assistant principal. The school principal, Mary Williams, quickly organized staff to help the Rochas.

    “You just get really attached to people that you work with and when something so tragic happens … How could that have happened?” Williams said.

    The staff started raising money. Then the whole school. Then the whole county.

    Zoey and her grandparents, who were badly hurt in a crash on East Colonial Drive.
    Patrick Rocha

    Donations have poured in. The Rochas have received hundreds of dollars in gift cards and $14,000 (and climbing) from a GoFundMe page.

    “As a family we’re very overwhelmed,” Rocha said.

    Meanwhile, the Rochas’ focus remains on their little girl. Angel hasn’t left Zoey’s side as she recovers in the pediatric intensive care unit.

    But for the Rochas, family has a new meaning. It now includes those who are rooting for them back at school.

    “People may think that’s cliché, but it’s not when you live here and work here and you know somebody has your back,” Williams said.

    Click here to visit the Rochas’ GoFundMe page.

    Angel and Patrick Rocha, and their little girl Zoey.
    Patrick Rocha



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