Authorities on Thursday identified the victims of the wrong-way crash that killed four people on Interstate 95 and released recording of police dispatch of the incident, giving a timeline of events.
After a police pursuit that began in Opa-locka, the 2013 Chevy Suburban SUV of suspect Willie Dumel, 25, collided with a Kia on the highway, north of Ives Dairy Road, around 1 a.m. Wednesday, authorities said.
Dennis Ryan Rinon Ortiz, 33, of California was driving the minivan that was in the southbound lanes of I-95 in northeast Miami-Dade when it was struck head-on by Dumel who was driving an SUV heading north, the Florida Highway Patrol said Thursday.
Lily Marie Azarcon, 26, of the Philippines and siblings Albertson Anthony Almase, 31, and Kristina A. Almase, 26, were the minivan passengers, FHP said.
A police incident showed that Opa-locka Police Cpl. Sergio Perez tried to pull over Dumel for making an improper right turn, Dumel fled, and Perez chased him.
"My understanding is he broke off the chase at the exit ramp at Ives Dairy Road,” Opa-locka Police spokesman David Chiverton said Wednesday.
A recording of a police dispatch that was released Thursday appeared to complicate the timeline, however.
In the recording, the officer reported that the suspect was getting off the highway at Ives Dairy Road. After he did, he got back onto I-95 heading in the wrong direction, police said.
"OK, this guy's all over the road, now he's going against traffic on I-95, we're going northbound in the southbound lanes,” the officer said in the recording.
He also reported that the suspect had thrown a firearm out of his window on I-95. Then the officer said, “Oh my God!”
Opa-locka officials still won’t say whether Perez, who has been placed on administrative leave with pay, did the right thing in pursuing the chase.
“It’s still an ongoing investigation. So at this point, I’m not going to comment on anything more than the information I’m giving you,” Chiverton said Thursday.
But police released their chase policy, which says that pursuits involving traffic violators are not permitted under any circumstances. It also says that officers should not drive against the flow of traffic.
Witness Jeff Kopelman, who was behind the minivan, saw Dumel’s headlights coming toward him.
"At the time I'm thinking to myself, is this guy drunk, maybe it's an older person who lost his bearings, there was no possible way of knowing,” Kopelman said Wednesday. “But the police were not behind him on I-95 chasing him. I think to their credit, they didn't, or it could've made even matters a lot worse, but certainly they were right there after the accident happened."
Dumel, who has two broken legs, is still hospitalized. Charges are pending.
The Almases were both in the Navy, FHP spokesman Joe Sanchez said. They are from out of town, but were initially listed as Fort Lauderdale residents because they were staying with somebody in Fort Lauderdale, he said.
Ortiz and Azarcon flew into Fort Lauderdale Tuesday night, and the Almases picked them up at the airport before the crash, Sanchez said.
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