Fla. Dispatchers Tracked Wrong-Way Driver

Florida Highway Patrol dispatchers began watching the SUV on highway surveillance cameras Sunday.


TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida Highway Patrol dispatchers, after receiving numerous calls about a wrong-way driver on Interstate 275 early Sunday morning, began watching the 2001 Ford Expedition on highway surveillance cameras, but lost sight of the vehicle moments before it crashed head-on into a car killing four University of South Florida fraternity brothers.

The driver of the Ford, Daniel Lee Morris, 28, also was killed in the fiery crash.

The glimpse into what went on that night was made public this week in a series of 911 calls released by the Florida Highway Patrol, along with a chilling recorded telephone conversation between a Hillsborough County 911 dispatcher and the highway patrol.

After a flurry of calls from motorists reporting the wrong-way driver, the highway patrol dispatcher, speaking to the county dispatcher, says: "We just got three or four calls on it. I'm hoping it doesn't hit nobody."

Just then, the video cameras along the interstate, which show real-time traffic, but do not record images, are monitored and highway patrol dispatchers watch helplessly as the white SUV barrels south near the Fletcher Avenue interchange.

"Where's he at?" the dispatcher says. "He just passed Fletcher. He's in the fast lane passing Fletcher right now. He's in the middle of the road now. What's he doing? He's just passed Fletcher."

The county dispatcher says there are two deputies nearby, but she's unsure how close they are.

"He passed Fletcher," the highway patrol dispatcher says. "He's speeding up right now; really going really fast. He's approaching Fowler.

"There's so much traffic. I don't know how he got around them."

At that point, the SUV stops, the dispatcher says.

"Is that him right there, pulled over? He's at the 48-mile marker. He's stopped for some reason. He's on the right side.

"He's taking off again, still in the middle of the road, he just took off again, just past the 48-mile marker. Took off again, really fast."

At that point, the dispatchers lose sight of the SUV. Moments later they get calls of a crash.

"We just got a call," the county dispatcher tells the highway patrol. "It's a white Ford. There's a vehicle fire."

"I see smoke," the highway patrol dispatcher says, viewing the camera image. "Man. It's pretty bad. It's bad."

Several calls were made by motorists prior to the wreck, which happened just north of Busch Boulevard, killing Morris along with Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, of Orlando, Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, of Melbourne, Imtiyaz Ilias, 20, of Fort Myers, and Dammie Yesudhas, 21, of Melbourne, all in a 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

One of those callers reported seeing the SUV going south in the northbound lanes near the apex of Interstate 275 and Interstate 75 in Pasco County, about 11 miles north of where the wreck occurred.

Copyright 2014 - Tampa Tribune, Fla.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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