TAMPA — One man is dead and another in custody after a wild sequence of events Thursday that troopers said started with a high-speed chase that ended with a crash on the Howard Frankland Bridge and the two men jumping into the water to escape capture.
The injured driver was pulled from the water. The passenger was later found dead. And inside the crashed car they left behind was a large amount of cash and drugs, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The incident started at about 4:10 when a trooper attempted to pull over a car speeding north on Interstate 275 near milepost 28 in St. Petersburg, rapidly approaching the bridge.
The car at times exceeded 120 mph, the Highway Patrol said, passed a trooper and kept going. The trooper gave up the chase at milepost 31, the Highway Patrol said, because the car was driver reckless and it became too dangerous to continue the chase.
But the car didn’t slow down as it entered the Howard Frankland. It was still speeding when it crashed into three vehicles east of the hump, near milepost 36 on the Tampa side of the bridge.
Two men exited the crashed car, troopers said, and jumped over the bridge’s concrete railing and into the waters of Tampa Bay.
A rush of law enforcement and rescue vehicles arrived and blocked all northbound lanes. The bridge entrance into Tampa is one of the worst traffic choke points in the Tampa Bay region, and Thursday’s events only made that worse.
Tampa Fire Rescue said one person was pulled from the water by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat sent to the scene. That person is believed to be the driver, troopers said. He sustained serious injuries and was taken to a hospital for medical treatment.
The passenger was later found dead by rescue boats.
Traffic cameras show a massive back-up on the bridge while rescue vessels searched the water around it. Some of the northbound lanes were eventually reopened.
The Highway Patrol did not release the name of either man, say what charges the driver may face or detail the amount and value of the cash and drugs recovered.