Update: The Florida Highway Patrol said that a third person, an adult woman injured in the wrong-way crash on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, died overnight Saturday.
A 22-year-old man fleeing from authorities in a stolen car on Wednesday drove the wrong way on the Sunshine Skyway bridge, rammed a Florida Highway Patrol trooper’s vehicle and then crashed head-on into a minivan, killing an Uber driver and two of his passengers and seriously injuring a fourth person, troopers said.
Leosvany Arias Roman, 22, of Hialeah is facing several charges related to the crashes, including felony murder, vehicular homicide, aggravated fleeing and eluding involving death, and driving without a valid license involving death.
According to the Highway Patrol, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance after trying to stop a driver in a stolen Ford Mustang in Hillsborough County. Troopers said the driver, later determined to be Roman, rammed a sheriff’s office patrol vehicle and then fled south on Interstate 275 late Wednesday night.
The sheriff’s office said deputies were never in an active pursuit of Roman. The agency limits pursuits to felonies that involve the use or threat of physical force or violence, and prohibits pursuits in vehicle burglary and theft cases.
However, an arrest affidavit said troopers, once involved, were “actively in pursuit” of Roman. The Florida Highway Patrol has a more expansive policy that allows troopers to pursue drivers suspected of committing DUI, reckless driving and any felony.
Steve Gaskins, a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, said that stealing a car and hitting a Hillsborough County vehicle were felonies, and qualified for a pursuit.
The sheriff’s office’s aerial unit tracked Roman while he drove toward the Sunshine Skyway bridge. According to the affidavit, Roman reached speeds in excess of 140 mph. In an attempt to stop the Mustang before the driver reached the bridge, a trooper tried to use a pursuit intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, but was unsuccessful.
When Roman reached the bridge, a trooper again tried to stop him. Roman collided with the trooper’s vehicle and continued south toward the top of the bridge. He then turned around, rammed into the trooper’s vehicle and continued north in the southbound lanes of the bridge at a high rate of speed, according to the Highway Patrol.
At about milepost 13, near the rest area just north of the bridge, Roman collided head-on with a Dodge Caravan carrying four people. Roman had driven about 2 miles north in the wrong direction before the crash, the affidavit said.
The driver, a 33-year-old Bradenton man, and a passenger, a 52-year-old man from Columbiana, Ohio, were killed in the crash. Two other passengers, a 51-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, also from Columbiana, were seriously injured and taken to local hospitals. On Saturday, the Highway Patrol reported that the woman had also died. Troopers did not release the names of the people killed and injured, though they said the Bradenton man was an Uber driver.
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The 27-year-old trooper who was hit, who has been with the agency for two years, suffered minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital.
Roman was seriously injured in the crash and remained in the hospital Thursday.
A Highway Patrol spokesperson said he will face charges in Hillsborough and Pinellas and will be booked into the Pinellas County Jail when he’s released from the hospital.
The incident closed the southbound lanes of I-275 overnight, and lanes reopened at 6:40 a.m.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.