Driver in fatal 2002 crash reacts to wrong-way collision on I-275

TREASURE ISLAND - In November 2002, John Templeton got behind the wheel of his Explorer drunk and drove onto southbound I-275 heading the wrong way. The mistake caused a fatal crash. To this day, he carries a picture in his wallet of the young woman he killed.

A fatal crash that led to five deaths Sunday morning brought him back to that night.

Templeton doesn't remember getting behind the wheel the night of the accident, he said. When he woke up handcuffed to a hospital gurney, state troopers told him he collided head-on with 18-year-old Julie Buckner and killed her.

"I just felt so ashamed and felt so horrible for what I'd just done," Templeton said.

When he saw cellphone video of Sunday's crash, he imagined the white Expedition speeding south in the northbound lanes of I-275 is what he looked like in 2002. He considered the video so difficult to watch he stopped it before the SUV collided with a car carrying four USF students.

"It was so gut wrenching," he said. "I almost felt like I was brought back to 11 years ago. Sometimes it does feel like yesterday."

Templeton faced 15 years in prison for what he did. He served 10 months after Buckner's family asked the judge for leniency. He now runs a drug and alcohol rehab center on Treasure Island, trying to make the most of his second chance.

When we sat down with him, Templeton pulled out a picture of Buckner that's worn and wrinkled around the edges.

"I don't ever want to take this out of my wallet," he said. "You know I feel like I try to carry her legacy with me and try to make a difference for her."

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