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Man killed in wrong-way crash on I-275 in Tampa (w/video)

A man was killed early Friday morning when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 275 and crashed head-on with an ambulance near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa. [Bay News 9]
A man was killed early Friday morning when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 275 and crashed head-on with an ambulance near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa. [Bay News 9]
Published Aug. 16, 2014

TAMPA — In the third wrong-way crash this year on the same stretch of Interstate 275, a man died early Friday when he drove against southbound traffic and ran head-on into an ambulance.

The ambulance was not carrying any patients, although its two attendants were hospitalized with minor injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The dead man was likely under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the patrol said — and, likewise, the two previous wrong-way drivers were also impaired.

A spokesman for the patrol said the driver Friday was going the wrong way for probably only four minutes or less before the crash, "leaving little time for law enforcement to react or warnings to be broadcast to other drivers."

Troopers began receiving reports about 2:44 a.m. of a car heading west in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 4 near 50th Street, authorities said.

The car, later identified as a 1997 Honda Accord, kept going through the junction with I-275, where it ended up heading north on I-275 in the southbound lanes.

Just north of Floribraska Avenue, the car collided with a Transcare ambulance in the inside southbound lane, troopers said. The collision caused the ambulance to tip on its side. The car was crushed.

The two ambulance attendants, Tarel Omar Peralta of Wesley Chapel and Kemecia Gaye Smith of Lutz, both 24, were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital with minor injuries.

The Honda's driver died at the scene. He was not carrying any identification, troopers said. A check of the car's registration was "inconclusive," troopers said.

The man was estimated to be in his 20s or 30s. It was not immediately known how he ended up driving the wrong way on the interstates.

The crash, which closed the southbound side of I-275 for about three hours, remained under investigation.

This is the third time in about six months that a wrong-way driver has caused a fatal crash on the same stretch of I-275.

On Feb. 9, Daniel Lee Morris, 28, drove south in the northbound lanes of I-275, colliding near Busch Boulevard with a 2010 Hyundai carrying four University of South Florida fraternity brothers. All five men died.

Less than two weeks later, Chase Kaleb Leveille, 25, drove a Honda Civic north on the southbound side of I-275, colliding with an Enterprise rental truck near Bearss Avenue. Leveille was killed. Two men in the truck were injured.

Investigations revealed that both Morris and Leveille were intoxicated at the time of their crashes.

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