A Highland City man has been charged with DUI manslaughter in connection with a two-car collision at U.S. 98 and County Road 540A last month that resulted in the deaths of the two Lakeland men riding in his pickup truck, the Polk Sheriff’s Office announced today.
Justin Mathis, 31, was also charged with DUI with property damage in the Nov. 20 incident, according to the Sheriff’s Office. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab test of a blood sample taken from Mathis when he was hospitalized returned a level of 0.25 g/100ml of blood, three times the legal limit, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.
The two passengers who died in the collision were identified as 34-year-old Christopher Lofton and 38-year-old David Weldon, both from Lakeland.
“There is no excuse to get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve been drinking,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “With the advent of ride-sharing apps, there are a variety of alternate transportation options out there.”
Mathis’ 2018 Silverado was driven at highway speeds into the rear of a southbound tractor trailer just after it took off when a traffic signal turned green on U.S. 98 at the intersection of County Road 540A, deputies said.
Mathis, who was wearing a seatbelt, was injured and hospitalized after his pickup wedged under the larger truck around 9:45 that night. The two passengers were not wearing seatbelts, deputies said. The driver of the tractor trailer was uninjured.