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Tampa driver, 21, faces DUI manslaughter charge in death of passenger

The suspect was speeding when he collided with a turning pickup truck early Sunday at an Interstate 75 interchange, troopers say.

TAMPA — A 20-year-old Tampa woman died in a collision just before 1 a.m. Sunday when the speeding car she was riding in collided with a pickup truck turning in front of it, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The driver of the car, James Curtis Whatley Jr., 21, of Tampa, faces a charge of DUI manslaughter in the collision at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard interchange on Interstate 75. Whatley, who received minor injuries, was arrested about four hours afterward at Tampa General Hospital.

Whatley was headed east on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at a high rate of speed when he drove his car into a westbound pickup truck that was turning left onto the I-75 entrance ramp, the Highway Patrol said.

The car spun off the roadway and hit a guardrail along the shoulder before coming to rest. The pickup was able to make a controlled stop.

Neither Whatley, a laborer for a fence company, nor his passenger were wearing seatbelts, the Highway Patrol said.

The driver of the pickup, a 43-year-old Lakeland man, was not injured. He was wearing his seatbelt and was able to bring the pickup to a controlled stop.

The Highway Patrol did not release the names of Whatley’s passenger or the pickup driver because of its interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 2018 that was meant to protect crime victims but keeps secret information that was long available under state public records laws.

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