Traffic was brisk Tuesday as Felipe Frias made his way south on Interstate 275, carrying a load of grain to the port in his semitrailer truck.
Just as he passed the Busch Boulevard exit at noon, a bright yellow taxi came careening across the road directly into his path. Frias hit the brakes but could not avoid slamming into the cab.
"I was scared, very scared," said Frias, 36, as he sat on the side of the interstate after the crash. "I put on my brakes and said, "God, help me.' "
The impact sent the truck sliding sideways down the interstate and pushed the taxi into the median, said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James Blanchard. Although the Yellow Cab wound up a mangled heap, the driver, Jerome Michael Loy, 46, was lucky.
Loy, of 14525 N 22nd St., was taken by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital where he was in fair condition late Tuesday. Frias, of 14858 Dade St. in Dade City, bruised his shoulder.
After the crash, smoke spilled from the taxi's engine, prompting a dozen calls to police that the car was on fire. Traffic stopped in both directions, and several emergency vehicles responded to the scene.
Diesel fuel spilled from the truck, forcing officials to close the southbound interstate for three hours. Traffic was diverted from Fowler south to Bird Street.
Blanchard said it appears that an unknown car stopped on the northbound interstate in front of Loy, forcing him to steer onto the median. Loy, who has worked for Yellow Cab for four years, lost control of the car and crossed the southbound lanes.
Frias was transporting grain from Dade City to Tampa for Lykes Corp., where he has worked for nine years. No one has been charged in the crash.