TAMPA — A man suspected of driving drunk fled from police and died early Friday after a fiery crash in his SUV, police said.
About 3:15 a.m., an officer stopped a black Kia Sorento driven by Eric Lee Peoples, 26, at E 19th Avenue and N 21st Street. He later was found to be on probation for grand theft of an automobile.
The officer suspected Peoples was drunk because he was driving about 12 mph with no headlights, said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.
As the officer got out of his car and started to approach the Sorento, it took off at a high speed, McElroy said. The officer did not chase it, she said, because Tampa police do not pursue people suspected of traffic violations, including DUI.
But a police helicopter in the area followed Peoples and saw him hit two parked cars in the 1900 block of E 19th Avenue, authorities said. The helicopter followed and videotaped Peoples driving erratically for about 15 blocks.
At N 12th Street and Columbus Drive, Peoples crashed the Sorento into an unoccupied parked white van, prompting the helicopter to call for more police and an ambulance.
The Sorento caught fire before the ambulance arrived, McElroy said.
An officer dragged Peoples out of the burning vehicle and began CPR while a half-dozen other officers fought the fire with extinguishers they carry in their patrol cars. Firefighters eventually put out the blaze.
Peoples, of 1337 W Union St., was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died at 4:07 a.m., McElroy said.
Peoples has been arrested 26 times since 1999 on charges including grand theft, burglary, fleeing to elude arrest, trespassing, drug possession, possession of a concealed handcuff key, escaping from a juvenile facility, resisting arrest and failure to appear in court, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
His most recent arrest was in January on warrants for grand theft, resisting arrest and trespassing, records show.