1 killed in wrong-way crash on I-275; lanes reopened - FOX 13 News

1 killed in wrong-way crash on I-275; lanes reopened

Posted: Updated:
(Shayla Reaves, FOX 13) (Shayla Reaves, FOX 13)
(Chase Kaleb Leveille) (Chase Kaleb Leveille)
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A 25-year-old Brandon man made a deadly mistake Friday morning, state police said, when he went the wrong direction on Interstate 275 and collided head-on with a truck.

Chase Leveille's mother said she saw him Thursday night.

"He left here last night, happy-go-lucky. He was going to go hang with some friends," said Jane Leveille. "I told him 'have fun and enjoy himself.' I told him, 'I'll see him tomorrow."

Those would be Jane's last words to her son.

Investigators said Chase got onto Interstate 275 South heading the correct direction, but for some reason made a u-turn in the road and began driving the wrong way.

At the crest of a hill bear the Bearss Avenue exit, his car collided with a box truck, killing him.

"I don't know what he was doing," his mother said. "He always thought of others. He always wanted to help people. He was just a sweet person if you knew him."

The two people in the truck survived. The passenger, Joe Smith, was asleep, then opened his eyes just before the impact.

"I just see headlights and he was already there," Smith said, adding he still can't believe what happened. "A man's dead, you know? And it's just hard to swallow. A young man is dead, a really young man."

Smith, like everyone, is wondering why Chase decided to make a u-turn. Investigators aren't yet sure and are looking into where he entered the highway.

Several passing drivers called 911, but Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said minutes later the crash happened and the drivers wouldn't have had a lot of time to react once they saw each other.

"Both are traveling high rate of speeds," he said. "You have a very rapid closure speed coming at each other, so you've only got seconds, moments to really respond to this because all of a sudden, boom, you have a set of headlights coming at you."

One 911 caller indicated Chase didn't appear to be impaired.

His family is just trying to figure out how to move forward.

"It's devastating," said Chase's brother, Paul Eskridge. "We don't know how to go through this loss. You don't know what it's like until you experience losing the only other part of the family we have."

"I don't even know how to go from here," said Jane Leveille, through tears.

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