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Boy, 15, dies after driving off Laurel Street Bridge in Tampa

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:26 AM
TAMPA -

A 15-year-old driver died early Sunday morning when he drove off the Laurel Street Bridge into the Hillsborough River.

About 4:40 a.m., Roderick Williams, 8119 N. Brooks St., Tampa, was headed east on the bridge when he lost control of the Chevrolet Cavalier he was driving and struck the guardrail, Tampa police said.

Police Lt. Brian Gant said detectives were checking Sunday to determine if the teen had a learner's permit. He was too young to have a license. In Florida, drivers with learner's permits are allowed behind the wheel only when accompanied by a licensed driver over 21. Drivers on learner's permits are not allowed to drive after 10 p.m.

Gant said it appeared the teenager lost control because he was speeding.

The car flipped into the river and sank about 20 feet. Tampa Fire Rescue personnel removed Williams from the submerged car but it was too late, police said.

Williams was the only person in the car, firefighters said.

"Several people had witnessed this occur," said fire rescue spokeswoman Debra Sue Warshefski. "One of the people who lives nearby ran down from his house or apartment to rescue this person."

The man went into the water, but was unable to get the teen out of the car, Warshefski said. He was standing on the car when firefighters arrived and was beginning to experience hypothermia.

Firefighters secured a ladder to the railing on the bridge and climbed down to pull the man out of the water, she said.

"He was not doing well at all and that's when our guys got there," she said.

The would-be rescuer left the scene before anyone could get his name, she said. She warned against attempting daring rescues.

"The message is this: While we're proud of that bystander, at the same time we need to caution everybody they too can become a victim. If we not been there, that person potentially could have become another victim."

The police dive team later removed the car from the river.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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