Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

One dead, three hurt in wrong-way crash on I-275 near downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A driver going the wrong way on Interstate 275 in downtown Tampa early Thursday collided head-on with another car, killing its driver, state troopers said.

The wrong-way driver, Christopher Ponce, 22, of Tampa, was seriously injured and taken to Tampa General Hospital.

The crash instantly killed William Brooks Angel, 20, of Wesley Chapel, and seriously injured his two passengers, Robert Patrick Newberry, 22, of Lutz, and Jay Davis, 20, of Wesley Chapel, authorities said.

It remained unclear why Ponce was driving the wrong way. None of the people involved in the crash was wearing a seat belt.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the crash happened around 2:45 a.m. Thursday in the northbound lanes of I-275 near the interchange with Interstate 4.

Angel and his passengers were headed north — going the right direction — in a 2000 Ford Mustang. Ponce was headed south in a 2012 Ford Fusion, troopers said.

Both cars were in the center lane when they collided.

Angel was killed on impact. Newberry and Davis were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.

In the hours that followed, all northbound lanes I-275 were closed near the downtown exit as troopers investigated, causing severe traffic backups from St. Petersburg and into Tampa. The road reopened around 6:45 a.m.

Angel was a 2010 graduate of Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, according to his Facebook page.

"William was a great kid," said Wiregrass Ranch principal Ray Bonti. He remembered him as an honors student and an officer in the ping pong club.

"This is very sad news for us at Wiregrass Ranch. Our hearts go out to William's family."

The patrol has not filed any charges in the crash, which remained under investigation.

Records show that Ponce has been accused of dangerous driving several times since 2006 — including six speeding violations, one seat belt violation and one careless driving citation.

His license was suspended in 2009 following a driving under the influence charge in Leon County, where officers said his blood alcohol level was .147, driving records show. The state considers a driver impaired when the blood alcohol reaches .08.

Authorities suspended Ponce's license again in 2011 because of failure to pay restitution from an earlier court case.

Records show his driver's license was reinstated in April.

News researcher John Martin and staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

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