A 32-year-old St. Petersburg man driving east on I-4 was killed around 3 a.m. today when his car was hit near the Carpenters Road Overpass by a wrong-way driver who has been charged with DUI manslaughter, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Polk: Fatal alcohol-involved wrong-way crash EB I-4 @ 33MM claims 1. EB lanes closed. pic.twitter.com/DFuk95cwOy

— FHP Tampa (@FHPTampa) January 14, 2017

The victim, who was driving a 2016 Ford Fusion, has been identified as Demerrio Alistaire Tobler. He was a church elder returning home from a day at Universal Orlando, the Tampa Bay Times reported.


The wrong-way driver of a 2005 Dodge Ram 150, identified as 24-year-old Travis Coats of Polk City, has been charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI property damage, DUI and driving the wrong direction. He was taken to Lakeland Regional Health for treatment of injuries, officials said.

Coats graduated from Florida State University last year and is a sales representative for Tropic Star Seafood, The Ledger reported. He was pulled to safety seconds before his truck burst into flames, according to 10 News.

In addition, a 2014 Ford Fiesta driven by Emily Jean Smart, 23, of Lakeland, collided with the Dodge Ram in the eastbound lanes. Smart received minor injuries and was treated at LRH.

I-4 eastbound lanes were closed for several hours, but have reopened.

#Overnight #LFD responded to accident/ car fire @ 35 of I-4.Truck driving E in W lanes hit car.Driver(truck)suspected DUI. Driver(car)died. pic.twitter.com/iwMUSf7WQt

— Lakeland Fire (@LakelandFD) January 14, 2017

This hasn’t been confirmed, but presumably the wrong-way driver entered I-4 by taking the left exit lane rather than the right entrance lane from State Road 33 near Socrum Loop Road.


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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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