Monday, December 18, 2017

Another driver is killed in wrong-way crash on I-275

For the second time in as many weeks, a car went the wrong way along a stretch of Interstate 275 in North Tampa, causing a fiery crash as the driver slammed into another vehicle.

It happened early Friday, just 3 miles north of the spot where another wrong-way crash killed five men early on Feb. 9.

This time, only the car's driver, Chase Kaleb Leveille, was killed. The driver and a passenger in the box truck that Leveille ran into had no serious injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Leveille turned around on the interstate and sped north before crashing. State troopers still have not determined how the driver in the Feb. 9 case ended up going the wrong way.

A preliminary investigation showed nothing to link the crashes and their respective causes, a Highway Patrol spokesman said. But despite the lack of an obvious connection, the two deadly incidents have left officials wondering what, if anything, can be done to prevent such crashes.

"In this case, we determined he made a U-turn," FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said. "I can't think of any way to prevent somebody from doing something like that."

At least three people called 911 about 2:35 a.m. to report Leveille's red 1993 Honda Civic heading north on the southbound side of I-275. One caller told dispatchers the car had been going south before it made a U-turn north of Busch Boulevard and sped north.

"It wasn't like he was impaired or anything," the caller said. "He was driving perfectly fine."

Leveille passed the exits for Fowler and Fletcher avenues before ramming into an Enterprise rental truck in the center lane just north of Bearss Avenue, troopers said. The car's front end crumpled and caught fire. Leveille, 25, of Riverview was later declared to have died at the scene.

The truck's driver, Jason D. Lullen, 47, of Wesley Chapel, and a passenger, Joe N. Smith, 65, of Tampa, were treated for minor injuries. The crash closed the interstate in both directions until about 5:30 a.m. Friday.

Leveille had an associate's degree in business from Hillsborough Community College, said Chad Piester of Brandon, who said he thought of Leveille as a son. Recently, Leveille had started selling home security systems.

Leveille's driving record offers few clues about his behavior on the road.It notes one prior crash, in 2007, after which he received a citation for an improper lane change. He avoided having points assessed on his license by attending defensive driving school, records show.

Earlier that same year, he received three license points after he was found guilty of driving with a suspended license. The reason for the suspension was unclear.

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