NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida Highway Patrol identified four people killed in a wrong way crash on Interstate 95 Wednesday morning.
Dennis Ryan Rinon Ortiz, 33, of California; Albertson Anthony Almase, 31, of Fort Lauderdale; Kristina Almase, 26, of Fort Lauderdale; and, Lily Marie Azarcon, 26, of the Philippines, were killed when a Chevrolet Suburban hit their minivan head on. Ortiz was driving, according to FHP.
FHP said 25-year-old Willie Dumel was driving the Suburban. He suffered two broken legs in the crash.
Opa-locka police first identified him as 24-year-old Paolo Lafrance.
According to Opa-locka police, an officer observed suspicious activity and began pursuing Dumel at Northwest 22nd Avenue and 144th Street.
Dumel then drove through Miami Gardens and onto northbound I-95, police said. He exited at Ives Dairy Road, where a gun was thrown out of the vehicle.
"The subject threw a .55 on I-95 and Ives Dairy. Oh my God," said an officer, according to a recording of police communications during the pursuit.
Officers recovered the weapon on the northbound exit of Ives Dairy Road.
Dumel then got back onto I-95 at Ives Dairy Road, but was driving northbound in the southbound lanes, police said. Police stopped their pursuit at that time, according to Opa-locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton.
"My understanding is the chase was broken off at the exit ramp of Ives Dairy Road," said Chiverton.
But a recording of police communications during the pursuit showed an officer may have still been pursing Dumel when he entered I-95 the wrong way.
"This guy is all over the road. Now he's going against traffic on I-95. We're going northbound in the southbound lanes," said an officer, according to the recording.
Jeff Kopelman said he was driving southbound when he saw headlights coming towards him.
"Two seconds after I realized that, I mean two seconds, four seconds, oh, right into the car in front of me," said Kopelman. "What looked like one, big ball and next thing I know, I see one of the automobiles go up in the air, come down, [and] turn over and over."
Moments later, Dumel crashed head-on with a minivan, killing the four people inside. The officer reported having him at gunpoint after the crash.
Dumel was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with two broken legs. He underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon.
Dumel was initially charged with fleeing or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer in a marked vehicle. Other charges are pending.
"Let me just say that I've been doing this for about 25 years and this is one of the worst accidents that I have seen," said Sanchez.
"As a mother, a sister and a wife, my heart goes out to the family of those killed in that accident," Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor said in a statement Thursday. "We will do a thorough investigation on our end. No stone will be left unturned. There will be no cover up. We will get to the bottom of this."
The officer who began the pursuit was put on administrative leave.
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