On Monday, May 15, 2023 at approximately 1:18 p.m., the Lake Wales Police Department responded to a traffic crash on U.S. Highway 27 at Washington Avenue involving three vehicles. Upon arrival, Officers found that a 2008 white Chevy panel van had rear-ended a 2019 Nissan Sentra, pushing the Sentra into a 2021 Chrysler Voyager. The driver of the Chevy was Thomas Wulff, 75 of Lake Wales was unconscious and not breathing. Officers removed him from the van and began rendering aid until Lake Wales Fire and Polk County EMS arrived on scene.
During the investigation, Officers learned the Chrysler and Nissan were stopped at the red light in the inside lane for southbound traffic on U.S. 27. Witnesses said the Chevy was southbound in the same lane and struck the Nissan from behind, never slowing down. Witnesses said they saw Mr. Wulff weaving within his lane earlier in the area of the Eagle Ridge Mall. They tried to get his attention and stop him but said he appeared to be having medical issues. They said he was slumped forward and would not respond or acknowledge them. They said the only reason he did not run through the red light at the intersection was due to the vehicles he struck.
Jazmia McDonald, 20 of Avon Park, was the driver and only occupant of the Nissan. Fernando Valladares, 38 of Miami, was the driver of the Chrysler. Also inside his vehicle was his wife and child. None of the occupants sustained serious injuries.
Mr. Wulff was transported to Advent Health Lake Wales where he was pronounced dead. Mr. Wulff was wearing his seatbelt and did not have any visible significant injuries, leading law enforcement to believe his death may have been the result of a medical episode. This is an ongoing investigation. If you have any information regarding this crash, please contact Detective Michael Waldron at the Lake Wales Police Department at 863-678-4223, ext. 2046.