WJTV News Channel 12 - 911 call: Wrong-way driver made U-turn before hitting ambulance

911 call: Wrong-way driver made U-turn before hitting ambulance on I-275

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A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa. A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa.
A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa. A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa.
A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa. A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa.
A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa. A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa.
A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa. A wrong-way driver hit an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning in Tampa.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Moments before a wrong-way driver crashed into an ambulance on Interstate 275 early Friday morning, the FHP fielded a number of 911 calls from motorists, including one who claimed he saw the wrong-way driver do a U-turn on I-4 near exit 3.

"He just abruptly turned around right in front of me and then started heading in the wrong direction,"' the caller said. "He's going to cause a head-on collision with somebody."

Moments later that wrong way driver hit an ambulance on I-275 in Tampa, according to Florida Highway Patrol.

"There was a guy coming head on going northbound in the southbound lane," another caller told the FHP "and I swerved and he ran head on into another truck."

The "truck" was an ambulance that was not transporting any patients at the time. The wrong-way driver died on scene.

FHP troopers started receiving calls about the wrong-way car at about 2:44 a.m. The car was a Honda Accord going west on eastbound lanes on Interstate 4 until it entered I-275. It continued north in the southbound lane.

A Transcare ambulance was going south on the highway near Floribraska Avenue when the Honda hit it head-on. The car flipped, overturned and stopped on the inside southbound shoulder. The ambulance also came to stop on the shoulder.

The Honda driver who died at the scene from his injuries was a man in his 20s to 30s. He had not been identified yet.

The ambulance was driven by Tarel Omar Peralta, 24, of Wesley Chapel. Kemecia Tasha Gaye Smith, 24, of Lutz, was also in the ambulance. They were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation said it took less than one minute before dispatchers warned motorists with flashing electronic signs. She said the department is trying to do more to warn motorists, in light of the recent rash of accidents.

"We can't prevent the drinking and the drugs,” Carson said. “That's something we can't prevent, but what we are doing, is if we have enough time, we're lighting up our message boards, the large ones that go across the interstate to warn drivers of a wrong way driver. We did do that this time, but unfortunately it didn't make a difference.”

Carson said FDOT is also working on pilot programs to help warn the wrong-way drivers that they are going the wrong way. Some signs have already been posted. But even that, Carson said, won't help if drivers are not coherent enough to read them.

Officials continue to investigate the crash. Troopers suspect alcohol or drug use on the part of the Honda driver.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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