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Troopers: Riverview man heads to casino after killing one, injuring two in crash

TAMPA — The white Hummer crashed into three vehicles, killing a retired city of Tampa supervisor and injuring two others.

Then, authorities said, it headed straight for the nearby Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Two men who saw the wreck followed the Hummer to the casino and called 911.

Soon, deputies arrested Henry Michael Tippins, 28, of Riverview in the casino's parking lot.

Tippins now faces 12 charges in Sunday night's hit-and-run crash at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street.

Tippins was drunk as he drove the 2003 Hummer west on Hillsborough Avenue around 8:30 p.m., the Florida Highway Patrol said.

He ran a red light at 56th Street, troopers said, and collided with three vehicles turning left: a 2000 Honda CRV driven by Linda Diane Fessell, 64, of Plant City; a 2000 Toyota Camry driven by Consuelo M. Cassagne, 55, of Tampa; and a 2000 Mitsubishi Galant driven by Felicia Mechele Rhodes, 35, of Tampa.

Cassagne was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and Rhodes to Tampa General Hospital, each with serious injuries.

Fessel died at the scene.

"It's been a difficult day," said Kimberly Crum, Tampa's director of human resources, where Fessell worked for 34 years.

Fessell joined the city in 1975 and worked throughout her career in human resources, retiring as supervisor of applicant services in March 2009. In that job, she worked in both recruitment and testing. That meant many city employees had contact with her either when they applied for a job, came up for promotion, or both.

"She had a lot of friends across the city," Crum said. "She was very warm and professional. I think when people came to her for help, she had a genuine interest in seeing them succeed."

Fessell was listed as a member of the Pink Dragon Ladies, Florida's first cancer survivor dragon boat team, from 2005 through at least 2008. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute created the team in late 2004, inviting female breast cancer survivors to form a dragon boat team for the 2005 Tampa Dragon Boat races.

"She had a lot of outside interests, and it was always about helping people and celebrating people," Crum said. "I think that's what she'll be celebrated for."

After his arrest, Tippins was taken to Hillsborough County Jail. It was unclear if he was even aware that a crash had taken place. The two men who called 911 were not identified.

Tippins was booked Monday morning on several charges, including leaving the scene of a crash with death and injuries, driving under the influence, reckless driving and DUI manslaughter.

It was not clear where Tippins was coming from or what his blood-alcohol level was.

Tippins had a handful of driving infractions over several years, records show, such as speeding and failing to stop for a red light. But he hasn't committed a traffic violation since 2006, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

He has no criminal history in the state, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Tippins works in Riverview as an engineer in the small motors division of Tampa Armature Works. The company did not return calls for comment.

Troopers estimated the Camry had about $15,000 damage, the CRV had about $20,000 and the Galant, about $8,000. The Hummer had about $3,000 in damage.

All drivers were wearing their seat belts.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Contact Marissa Lang at mlang@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Troopers: Riverview man heads to casino after killing one, injuring two in crash 12/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 12, 2011 10:57pm]
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