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Driver in fatal I-275 head-on crash out of hospital, arrested

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:17 PM

A motorist accused of driving his car the wrong way Thursday on Interstate 275, causing a fatal accident, has been arrested after being released from the hospital.

Christopher Ponce, 22, was taken to Orient Road Jail after being released from Tampa General Hospital at 3:30 p.m. He was charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, two counts of reckless driving involving serious bodily injury, and two counts of dui with serious bodily injury.

The Florida Highway Patrol continues to investigate how Ponce's 2012 Ford Fusion ended up going south in the northbound lanes of I-275 in downtown Tampa, where it struck another car head-on.

The collision happened at 2:49 a.m., just south of the Interstate 4 interchange, a traffic bottleneck known as Malfunction Junction. Troopers said a 2000 Ford Mustang was traveling north in the center lane of I-275 and was approaching the I-4 junction when Ponce's car struck the Mustang head-on.

The driver of the Mustang, William Brooks Angel, 20, died at the scene. His passengers, Robert Patrick Newberry, 22, of Lutz, and Jay Davis, 20, of Wesley Chapel, were in serious condition Thursday at St. Joseph's Hospital, the highway patrol said.

State records show he had racked up 10 driving violations, including DUI, driving with a suspended license and careless driving.

Ponce was arrested last year in Tampa for driving with a suspended license, state records show. In 2009, he was arrested by Tallahassee police for DUI.

Ponce pleaded no contest to the charge and had his driver's license suspended for six months, records show. Ponce also was given six months' probation and ordered to attend classes about driving under the influence.

Since he became licensed to drive at age 16, Ponce has had eight other traffic citations, records show.

In 2006, he was cited for careless driving, improper passing and speeding. In 2007, he was again given a speeding ticket and during the next two years he was cited for careless driving, not wearing a seatbelt and twice more for speeding.

The highway patrol is investigating whether alcohol or drugs were involved in Thursday's crash, Sgt. Steve Gaskins said.

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