Wandering child injured in hit and run

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a hit-and-run incident, involving a three-year-old boy in Marion County.

The child was found wandering outside, alone and in the middle of a road. A stranger saw the toddler, but the child was hit by a car, and the driver raced off. That man could also help catch the driver.

The boy is astonishingly still alive, but he might not have made it if one man didn’t hear his cries and stop to help.

“Good thing I had my windows down and I heard the cry and I said ‘oh a kid!’” said Cornelius Thomas.

Thomas was the first person to find little Jase Nichols early Friday morning. Deputies say the three-year-old was lying on Northeast Jacksonville Road at around 1:45 in the morning. Thomas was driving by when he heard the cries, pulling over and finding the boy bleeding in the road.

“I got on the phone with the dispatchers from 911, telling them please send somebody quick and my mind going a thousand miles a minute,” said Thomas.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

“All I see was lights moving over the hill, car speeding.”

That car almost hit Thomas, but instead hit the boy and then took off.

“Yeah, kind of get choked up from that. Who did it and why didn’t they stop? Your mind going.”

FHP is now searching for the driver, described as a white woman in her thirties with dirty blonde hair, driving a gold Chevy, possibly a Malibu.

“In fact what we have is at least one good lead that has come in to us since this crash,” said FHP Lt. Patrick Riordan.

As for why the boy was in the road, deputies say he just walked out of his home while the mother was asleep, traveling almost a half-mile to the intersection. The mother woke up to find her son missing, showing up to the scene distraught. Deputies say there was no neglect, just a tragic accident. Thomas says he was just in the right place at the right time.

“I just hope that the kid comes out okay. I would like to see him again, I hope to say something to him, try to do something with him.”

The boy is being treated at the hospital and is expected to survive.FHP is still trying to determine if the boy was hit by two cars, possibly once before Thomas arrived.

If you saw or know any of the details in this hit-and-run, call FHP at 1-800-387-1290 or Crime Stoppers of Marion County at 352-369-6880.