USF mourns students’ deaths in wrong-way crash

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A memorial wreath on the northbound side of I-275 between Busch Boulevard and Fowler Avenue exits.

Update: FHP released several wrong way crash calls to dispatch on Feb. 12th. This one runs 5:27 and describes the search for the wrong-way driver on I-275.

By Carol Lim

Five people were killed in a fiery, head-on car crash that involved a vehicle heading the wrong way on Interstate 275 early Sunday morning. Three were University of South Florida students and a former student in a car. The driver of the wrong-way vehicle also died. The collision happened north of the Busch Boulevard exit around 2 a.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Video of a Ford Expedition speeding the wrong way toward oncoming northbound traffic and the students’ car, a Hyundai Sonata, was posted on Facebook by a driver traveling southbound on the highway. The 4 students killed are identified as Dammie Yesudhas, Imtiyaz Ilias, Ankeet Patel and Jobin Kuriakose. The students’ ages ranged from 20-22 years old. All were members of the USF chapter of Sigma Beta Rho fraternity.

On Tuesday, authorities identified the driver of the Ford Expedition as Daniel Lee Morris, 28, of Tampa.

“Our hearts are heavy at the loss of such bright, energetic and optimistic young people who had promising futures ahead of them; to have their lives cut tragically short betrays our sense of fairness and security. Now is the time when our faith and the support of those closest to us can sustain us, and should in tribute to their spirit of friendship and brotherhood,” said USF President Judy Genshaft in a statement to the USF community Sunday.

On Sunday night, mourners gathered to lay a wreath, bouquets of roses and candles near the crash site along I-275. USF also is offering services, counseling and resources to students struggling with the loss of their friends and classmates. The USF chapter of Sigma Beta Rho plans an on-campus memorial service at 3:30 p.m. Thursday outside the Marshall Student Center.

In another wrong way, head-on crash, 6 people were killed in Diamond Bar, California early Sunday morning. Oliva Culbreath, 28, of Fontana, California, was arrested and suspected of drunk driving and manslaughter.

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