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DRUNK AND ON A PATH OF DOOM

The wrong-way driver in the I-275 crash in August had a high blood-alcohol level.

The driver responsible for the third in a series of five fatal wrong-way crashes this year on Tampa Bay area interstates was drunk and had cocaine in his system when his car collided with an ambulance in August.

Results of toxicology testing released Wednesday show that Edward Jose Duran had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 - more than 21/2 times the level at which the state presumes intoxication - at the time of the Aug. 15 crash. He also showed a positive result for cocaine and chemical compounds that result when the drug is mixed with alcohol.

Duran, 23, was driving a 1997 Honda Accord about 2:40 a.m. when he started heading west on the eastbound side of Interstate 4 near 50th Street, troopers said.

Duran headed over a ramp at the I-275 interchange and kept going north in the southbound lanes. Just north of Floribraska Avenue, the car slammed head-on into a TransCare ambulance.

The car was crushed. Duran, of Tampa, was killed. The ambulance tipped on its side. Two attendants were treated for minor injuries; there was no patient inside.

A day passed before investigators were able to identify Duran. He was carrying no identification, and a check of the car's registration was inconclusive, troopers said.

Investigators learned that Duran had visited Liborios Latin Cafeat 8210 Causeway Blvd. in Palm River about 8 p.m. the previous evening. The cafe is about a mile from the house where Duran lived at 1820 Green Ridge Road. It was unclear where else he had been before he started driving.

Likewise, troopers were uncertain how he ended up going the wrong way on the interstate. They theorized that he may have started by heading up the I-4 exit ramp at Columbus Drive.

In June, Duran's driver's license was suspended after he failed to pay a fine for a speeding ticket he received the previous month, state records show. He was arrested in June after not responding to another ticket, for failing to register a motor vehicle, records show. His criminal history includes a 2009 arrest for possession of Xanax and marijuana, but charges in that case were dismissed.

In the weeks before and after Duran's death, four other wrong-way drivers caused fatal crashes along the area's interstates, killing 11 people.

It began in February, when a pair of wrong-way crashes on I-275 near Fowler and Bearss avenues killed six. Two more crashes happened in September. The first, on Sept. 9 near Bearss Avenue, killed three, and another on Sept. 22 on I-75 in Pasco County claimed the driver.

Toxicology tests are pending in the latest case, but drivers in the four prior wrong-way crashes were shown to have been drunk.

Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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