Friday, June 14, 2024

Driver of fleeing vehicle causes fiery crash involving an ambulance and life-threatening injuries in Pinellas County

At approximately 2:44 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2024, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) deputy attempted a traffic stop on a 2014 BMW X1 for a traffic violation on Ulmerton Road near Railroad Avenue.  The driver, 41-year-old Willie Lee Daniels, initially stopped for deputies but quickly conducted a U-turn and fled the traffic stop at a high rate of speed. Daniels fled, traveling north on Seminole Boulevard from Ulmerton Road. According to PCSO, the deputy did not pursue Daniels. He deactivated his lights and sirens and resumed normal driving.

The vehicle failure to yield and flee the scene, prompted multiple deputies to track the vehicle. The PCSO helicopter “Eagle” was dispatched to assist in tracking the fleeing vehicle.

While fleeing, Daniels ran a red traffic signal at the intersection of Seminole Boulevard and Ulmerton Road. The vehicle eventually continued northbound on Seminole Boulevard, where a deputy deployed a tire deflation device in an attempt to stop it. Despite this effort, the Daniels continued to evade capture.

The chase ended dramatically at the intersection of East Bay Drive and Missouri Avenue, where the BMW collided with an ambulance operated by Medfleet, a company providing ambulance and stretcher services to Central and West Florida. The impact caused the ambulance to overturn and rest on its side in the southbound lanes of the roadway north of the intersection. The BMW ended up on the curb and sidewalk and erupted in flames.

Investigators state a 2014 Ford E350 Medfleet Ambulance, driven by 25-year-old Derrick Gil was traveling westbound on East Bay Drive, east of North Missouri Avenue. In the rear of the ambulance was a 70-year-old patient who was being treated by 28-year-old Medic Ashley Markel.

Investigators advise the ambulance was traveling at approximately 35 MPH when it entered the intersection of East Bay Drive and North Missouri Avenue with a solid green traffic signal. While traveling north on Seminole Boulevard, Daniels entered the intersection, striking the ambulance at a high speed, causing it to rotate and turn on its side.

Deputies quickly responded, deploying multiple fire extinguishers to contain the blaze. Firefighters completed the extinguishment of the fire and worked to extricate multiple people from the vehicles.

Gil was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Markel, Daniels, and the patient in the ambulance were transported to the hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

Criminal charges are pending.

According to investigators, speed and impairment of Daniels appear to be factors in the crash.

Due to the investigation and road cleanup, the roadway did not reopen until about 10 a.m.

As of Sunday afternoon, both employees were listed in stable condition and recovering at the local trauma center. They are still in a lot of pain, but in good spirits, according to MedFleet.

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