LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - Two people are dead after a horrific crash on Interstate 75 early Thursday morning. A tanker carrying bleach collided with the back of a minivan, stopped in the road.
Both drivers were killed. Florida Highway Patrol identified minivan driver as 16-year-old Jannelle Arvelaez of Lehigh Acres and the tanker driver as 48-year-old Alexander Brener of Land O Lakes.
Arvelaez just finished her sophomore at Lehigh Senior High School where administrators say she made her mark in a short time. "She just was special," Assistant Principal Jason Plucker said.
"She was just a good kid, a really good kid," Principal Jackie Corey added, looking through the yearbook. "You see a picture of her waving on the float during homecoming. She was a JV cheerleader. She was involved in our junior ROTC program and she was also an AVID student which was really special. She was a student who was really focused on her academics. She had a really good GPA. She was taking advanced course work. Her future was really bright."
"When I got he call," Plucker said, "as soon as they said the name, my heart dropped. She's a name I remember and we have close to 2,000 students."
Around 3:00 Thursday morning, Florida Highway Patrol says Arvelaez's vehicle was stopped in the outside travel lane of I-75 southbound, near the Pine Ridge exit. A tanker semi, driven by Brener hit the back of Arvelaez's minivan.FHP says both drivers were ejected and killed. Neither was wearing a seatbelt. The tanker spilled 3,000 gallons of hypochlorite bleach which closed the road for several hours. It's not clear why Arvelaez was stopped on the road.
"Our teachers are very affected by this," Corey said.
As students and staff remember Janelle Arvelaez, words like "academic excellence," "beautiful" and "outgoing" continually come up. "She was friends with everybody," Plucker said. "She didn't have a particular clique. Everyone liked her."
"We will never forget her at Lehigh," Corey said.
Corey mentioned that junior class is already planning a candlelight vigil for Jannelle. In the meantime, they will have grief counselors on hand throughout the summer and when school starts for anyone who needs them.
David Garner, Senior Vice President Operations of Brenntag North America, released the following statement in regards to the crash:
"On behalf of Brenntag, we would like to extend our most sincere sympathies to the families of Janelle Arvelaez and our driver, Alexander Brener, who were fatally injured today as the result of the vehicle accident which occurred on I-75 south just north of Naples, FL. Alexander Brener was employed as a truck driver for Brenntag for over 14 years and was a valuable member of our team and will be truly missed.
Brenntag has people on the scene to assist with the cleanup of the 10 percent sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solution which is ongoing at this time. Brenntag is also working closely with the Florida Highway Patrol to help them determine the cause of the accident. It is our objective to learn from FHP’s incident investigation, as well as our own internal analysis of this tragic incident, so we can eliminate accidents like this."