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Beer is found in wrong-way SUV

TAMPA — The driver of the SUV in Wednesday's fatal crash on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway had unopened beer in her vehicle, the Florida Highway Patrol said Thursday.

Cheryl M. Riemann of Ruskin had several Budweiser beer bottles in the front of her vehicle, but Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said all the bottles he saw were closed except one that broke in the crash.

The bottles led investigators to believe alcohol may have played a part in the crash, he said. Blood-alcohol test results are pending.

Riemann, 25, was traveling east on the westbound lanes of the expressway just after 2 p.m. Wednesday. Her sport utility vehicle hit a Pontiac coupe head on and killed its driver, Jennifer O'Boyle. It happened on the lower portion of the expressway, not far from Palm River Road.

A sheriff's deputy had been following Riemann as she drove the wrong way on the expressway, but he wasn't able to catch up to her before the crash, Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. The deputy is being used by the Highway Patrol as a witness, and Carter wouldn't release his name or details about what he saw.

Investigators haven't interviewed Riemann yet. She is still unresponsive in the hospital, but she is expected to recover fully, Gaskins said.

Summer Moll, O'Boyle's 4-year-old daughter, was in critical condition Thursday evening. Her legs were crushed, and she had severe swelling and bleeding. She underwent surgery yesterday on her head to reduce swelling, Gaskins said.

O'Boyle's boyfriend, Mike Robinson, said funeral plans haven't been set yet. O'Boyle of Brandon would have been 25 years old Thursday.

"I want her back, and I can't have her back," he said, crying. "I loved her so much."

Investigators are interviewing people who saw Riemann driving, and they're trying to track down people who might have pictures or videotapes. They're also going to look at the photos taken at the 78th Street tollbooth because she may have driven through the open SunPass gates in the opposite direction, Gaskins said.

The video recordings taken on the expressway are meant only for live streaming and can't be saved or retrieved, Expressway Authority spokeswoman Susan Chrzan said.

Gaskins declined to provide preliminary information from witness interviews, saying investigators want to get the full story first. But he did say that there were no broken gates, either at the tollbooths or leading to the reversible express lane.

Gaskins said it is possible to enter the exit ramp on the expressway because they are built like most interstates — there are warning signs, but no gates.

Times staff writers Jan Wesner and Andrew Meacham contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Beer is found in wrong-way SUV 09/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 2:29pm]
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