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FHP: Driver in wrong-way crash that killed one in Hernando suspected of being impaired

The Florida Highway Patrol said Jose Esteban Jimenez was driving southbound on the northbound lanes of State Road 589 in the early hours of Feb. 3.

Jose Esteban Jimenez drove southbound on the Suncoast Parkway (State Road 589) early Sunday morning through thick fog.

But Jimenez didn't use the southbound lanes. The 39-year-old Frostproof resident was driving the wrong way, according to Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins.

Near Mile Marker 38 in Hernando County, tragedy struck. Jimenez slammed his 2014 GMC pickup truck head-on into a Mini Cooper driven by Rhiddari McKenzie around 1:43 a.m., Gaskins said in the release.

The crash killed the 39-year-old McKenzie. Jimenez's truck burst into flames.

Jimenez was taken to Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center in Hudson after sustaining serious injuries in the crash.

Gaskins said authorities suspect Jimenez was impaired during the crash, but the Florida Highway Patrol release made no mention of potential criminal charges.

According to state records, Jimenez was arrested in 2009 for driving under the influence by the Highlands County Sheriffs Office. In 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation.

Authorities closed the northbound lanes of State Road 589 for hours after the crash, but the thoroughfare reopened later Sunday morning.

This report has been updated with details about Jimenez' criminal history.

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Kirby Wilson at kwilson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8793. Follow @kirbywtweets.

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