TAMPA, Fla. – Five people, including four fraternity brothers, died in a fiery, head-on collision on a southwest Florida highway early Sunday morning, according to Florida Highway Patrol officials.
The driver of an SUV was heading south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa around 2 a.m. Sunday when the driver collided head-on with the Hyundai Sonata carrying the fraternity brothers. Authorities say the SUV burst into flames and the driver died at the scene. FHP officials were struggling to identify the male victim late Sunday because of extensive injuries from the fire.
Sergeant Steve Gaskins said all four victims in the second car also died at the scene. They were members of the University of South Florida's fraternity Sigma Beta Rho. Authorities identified the victims as: Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, Imtiyaz "Jim" Ilias, 20 and Dammie Yesudhas, 21.
"Mere words cannot convey the depth of shock and sadness this terrible event brings to all who knew and cherished these wonderful young men," USF President Judy Genshaft said in a statement.
The university's counseling center will be available to help students' struggling with the loss. Sigma Beta Rho is planning an on-campus memorial service later in the week. Details will be available on the university's website, school officials said.
"Our hearts are heavy at the loss of such bright, energetic and optimistic young people who had promising futures ahead of them; to have their lives cut tragically short betrays our sense of fairness and security," Genshaft said. "Now is the time when our faith and the support of those closest to us can sustain us, and should in tribute to their spirit of friendship and brotherhood."
Authorities said they are investigating whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.
The highway was closed for several hours following the crash and re-opened around 7 a.m.