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Friday, Nov 16, 2018
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Howard Frankland driver made U-turn before fatal, wrong-way collision; alcohol suspected

A Pinellas Park man killed Friday morning in a crash on the Howard Frankland Bridge had made a U-Turn near the center of the bridge and drove in the wrong direction for two to three miles before colliding with another vehicle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Renard Antonio McGriff, 46, was driving north in a 2010 Chrysler sedan just before 6 a.m. when he turned around about halfway to Tampa, the Highway Patrol said. After driving two to three miles in the wrong direction, McGriff crashed head-on into a 2016 Ford van driven by Mark Joseph Reale near Fourth Street N, the Highway Patrol said.

McGriff died at the scene. Reale, 44, of St. Petersburg, was transported to Tampa General Hospital with critical injuries.

A GMC SUV driven by 40-year-old Ozgur Akan of Alpharetta, Ga., struck the side of the van but was not injured, the Highway Patrol said.

The crash closed northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland for just over three hours and also stalled traffic on the Gandy Bridge. The northbound lanes on the the Howard Frankland reopened around 9:10 a.m., FHP said, but drivers looking to detour to Gandy Bridge to cross the Bay were experiencing drive times over an hour long.

Records show McGriff already had a pending DUI case in Pinellas County and that a status hearing on the case had been set for Friday at 8:30 a.m., just hours after the crash that killed him. The records show another status hearing was set for Nov. 2.

RELATED: Wrong-way drivers on Tampa Bay interstates are not uncommon: Five other tragic cases

McGriff was arrested in November after he was stopped by a St. Petersburg police officer for speeding on 4th Street N about 2:45 a.m., an arrest report says. McGriff smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet, had bloodshot, watery eyes and a dazed expression on his face. He also performed poorly on field sobriety tests.

The report says his blood alcohol level was .071, below the legal limit for motorists of .08.

State records show McGriff served four stints in state prison between 1992 and 2015 for aggravated battery, armed robbery, illegal possession of a firearm, resisting a law enforcement officer with violence and cocaine sales and possession.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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