Police said they have determined the true identity of the suspect involved in a violent wrong-way crash on I-95 that killed four people Wednesday morning.
Willie Dumel, 25, was the suspect driving an SUV that crashed with a minivan in northeast Miami-Dade, Opa-locka Police spokesman David Chiverton said Wednesday night.
Police had initially identified another man as the suspect, before that man came forward to say that he had nothing to do with the crash and that his ID was stolen four years ago.
A police pursuit that began in Opa-locka ended in the crash early Wednesday, officials said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crash happened around 1 a.m. as the suspect, who was driving a 2013 Chevy Suburban SUV, entered the southbound lanes of I-95 at Ives Dairy Road traveling northbound.
At one point, between Ives Dairy and Hallandale Beach Boulevard, the SUV was involved in a head-on crash with a 2013 Kia minivan, killing four family members inside, the FHP said.
One of the victims was ejected from the van, Opa-locka Police said. The vehicle was completely destroyed in the crash.
FHP Trooper Joe Sanchez said it was one of the worst crashes he's ever seen.
"It's a tragedy, anytime anybody loses their life out here on the highway it's a tragedy but when you have four, unconfirmed, possibly even more inside the vehcile because the car's so mangled up but as of now we have unconfirmed four fatalities in this accident," Sanchez said.
The suspect, who police had initially identified as 24-year-old Paolo LaFrance, was hospitalized with two broken legs but was expected to survive, the FHP said. The front of his SUV was completely crumpled.
Police later said the man would undergo surgery Wednesday for his injuries to his legs.
He was in stable condition Wednesday night, police said.
Opa-locka Police said another man came to their headquarters to say he was the real Paolo LaFrance and had nothing to do with the crash. The man claimed he had his ID stolen four years ago. The ID was found on the suspect, an official said.
“He just wanted to come in and clear the air," Chiverton said of LaFrance. "He didn’t want to be caught up in something of this caliber."
Jeff Kopelman, who saw the crash occur, said it was shocking, and it will haunt him.
"It played a number on my mind," he said.
Authorities had closed all I-95 southbound lanes between Ives Dairy Road and Hallandale Beach Boulevard as car parts were scattered across the highway.
Major backups were reported as the southbound lanes of the highway weren't reopened until around 9 a.m.
The chase, which started in the area of Northwest 143rd Street and 22nd Avenue, began when an officer spotted suspicious activity and tried to stop the suspect, police said.
The suspect began driving northbound in the northbound lanes of I-95 but exited at Ives Dairy Road where he got back onto the highway in the wrong direction, police said.
At one point, he tossed a gun out of the SUV, police said. The gun was later recovered.
Chiverton said the Opa-locka officer who tried to stop the suspect, Cpl. Sergio Perez, has been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard any time an officer is involved in such a situation.
Police said the man will be charged with fleeing or attempting to elude and will likely face more serious charges.
The family hasn't been identified but police said they believe they're all adults.
"It's a tragedy," Chiverton said. "There's no words to help."
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