TAMPA — It was about 2:40 a.m. when officers spotted the Nissan Altima at one of Tampa’s busiest intersections early Wednesday. The sedan was crammed with people and, police say, stolen.
Officers tried to conduct a traffic stop near N Dale Mabry Highway and W Kennedy Boulevard. Instead, according to police, the driver sped away. Officers pursued.
In less than two minutes, police said, the Altima made it to W Cypress Boulevard near Reo Street, more than two miles away. There, the sedan crashed.
Officers pulled two people from the wreckage and rendered aid until paramedics arrived and took them to the hospital.
Four others trapped inside died at the scene.
Few other details were released Wednesday. Tampa police spokeswoman Jamel Lanee said detectives were working to confirm the identities of people in the car.
At a news conference Wednesday on demonstrations against police brutality, police Chief Brian Dugan was asked about the crash. He said the stolen Nissan and the police pursuit were not connected to the protests.
“It was completely separate," Dugan said. “It was an auto burglary and a stolen car out of Temple Terrace. It’s a tragic incident.”
The Nissan came to rest among large trees that line the north side of Cypress Street, across from the beachfront Cypress Point Park. Police shut down a portion of Cypress Street through the morning commute, diverting puzzled motorists onto Reo Street. Police tape also blocked the multi-use trail, forcing runners and cyclists out for morning exercise to find another route.
The Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office was still at the scene about 8:30 a.m, removing the last of the four bodies. TECO crews arrived to replace a pole that had apparently been damaged in the crash.
Just before 10 a.m., a flatbed tow truck carrying what was left of the Altima pulled away from the scene. The roof was no longer attached to the car, and there was a gap where a front wheel should have been.