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Reckless driving charge for driver who shut down Interstate 75, troopers say

The interstate was blocked for up to five hours after the Florida Highway Patrol said a speeding driver struck a semitrailer hauling a hazardous liquid.
Published Feb. 21

TAMPA — A 27-year-old woman faces a charge of reckless driving after the Florida Highway Patrol said she caused the wreck that left a semitrailer truck carrying a hazardous liquid jackknifed and blocked Interstate 75 for several hours Thursday.

Kimberly Westfall, 27, of Tampa, was arrested after troopers said she crashed into the semitrailer at about noon, on I-75 near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. She was to be booked into the Hillsborough County jail.

The incident started with Westfall speeding in a black Acura in the north outside lane of I-75, troopers said. Her top speed was not disclosed. When the Acura came upon the slower semitrailer, the driver crossed four lanes to get to the inside lane.

But the Acura encountered slower traffic in the inside lane, so troopers said Westfall drove across all four lanes to get back to the outside lane — and ended up striking the front of the semitrailer.

The truck jackknifed along the outside shoulder. The cab left the roadway while the trailer overturned and slid for 200 feet across the interstate before coming to a stop. The Acura also stopped.

Westfall was wearing her seat belt but suffered minor injuries and was taken to AdventHealth Tampa, the hospital on E Fletcher Avenue. The semitrailer driver, Reginald Johnson, 50, of Jacksonville, was also wearing his seat belt and suffered minor injuries. He was not taken to a hospital.

The semitrailer was carrying an "alcohol-based food grade apple flavor liquid" called decahydronaphthalene, the Highway Patrol said. Two lanes were re-opened at 2 p.m., and all lanes were re-opened three hours later.

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