Arcadia community continues to mourn the tragic loss of 4-year-old at preschool playground

Community continues to cope with tragic death of 4-year-old girl on Arcadia playground.
Community continues to cope with tragic death of 4-year-old girl on Arcadia playground.(WWSB)
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:47 PM EDT
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ARCADIA, Fla. (WWSB) - One week later, the senseless death of Maleena Valdez is still hitting the Arcadia community hard. The 4-year-old was struck and killed by a vehicle that left the roadway and slammed into her and another child while they were on the playground at Imagination Station preschool.

A 5-year-old girl was also injured. Neighbors are still in disbelief over what happened.

“It’s horrible, I just feel for them and hopefully they can get through this, the whole thing is a shame,” said Fred Vargas, a neighbor who lives next door to the Valdez family.

Funeral services for Maleena will take place Thursday night from 6-8 p.m. at Ponger Kays Grady Funeral Home in Arcadia.

Maleena’s grandfather told ABC7 his family is grateful for all the support from the community. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family:

In the meantime, the community continues to come together to help the family through this very difficult time.

“The only thing I can say is God bless them, I know it’s hard,” said Judy Wertz-Strickland, a city councilwoman. “We’ve had tragedy in our family, so I know that’s a hard thing to deal with, but time will help them.”

The councilwoman says she is related to the owner of the preschool. She has talked with her a few times since the tragedy.

“It’s been a bad situation for them, they’ve just been traumatized by the whole thing,” said Wertz-Strickland.

The driver of the SUV, 18-year-old Kiara Morant, does not have a drivers license. She remains in the DeSoto County Jail on $200,000 bond.

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