Woman charged after 1 child, 2 adults die in hit-and-run crash that closed WB Selmon Expressway

TAMPA, Fla. - UPDATE | Amber Perera, a motorist charged in a triple fatality traffic crash on the Lee Roy Expressway in South Tampa Thursday, appeared before a Hillsborough County judge Saturday morning. 

A judge denied bond for Perera on Saturday and will decide whether to set bond for the 29-year-old Brandon woman at a second court hearing Wednesday.  

She remains behind bars at a Hillsborough County jail.

Perera was charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury, hit and run failure to remain on scene involving serious injury or death, and tampering with evidence following the fatal crash.

A Kia vehicle Perera was driving eastbound on the expressway near Euclid Avenue went out of control and struck Hyundai about 4 p.m. Thursday. The Hyundai careened across the median and entered the path of a Jeep and SUV. Both vehicles collided with the Hyundai, which burst into flames. 

Police identified the three people killed in the accident as Luis Felipak, 41, Rita Felipak, 29, and Georgia Felipak, 8.

ORIGINAL STORY | Tampa Police have confirmed that one of the three individuals killed by a DUI hit-and-run driver on the Selmon Expressway was a child. Detectives arrested and charged a woman on Thursday for causing the crash.

The Tampa Police Department said the crash occurred shortly after 4:00 p.m. between Bay to Bay and W. Euclid Ave.

According to police, a driver was traveling eastbound and lost control of the car and veered into the grass median, causing a second car to cross the median into oncoming traffic. Upon entering the westbound lane, the second car struck two westbound vehicles and burst into flames.

All three occupants of the second car died at the scene. The occupants of one of the westbound vehicles were uninjured. 

Police said the driver who lost control of the car was speeding at the time of the crash. The driver also drove off at a high-speed rate until the car broke down from the damages it sustained in the crash. The driver was apprehended minutes later. 

29-year-old Amber Nicole Perera, of Brandon, was identified as the driver by a witness who saw her car before the crash, during the actual crash, after the crash and maintained visual contact with Perera until law enforcement arrived.

When police made contact with Perera, she was slurring her speech, the arrest affidavit states. Post Miranda, Perera admitting to police that she was the driver of the vehicle and that she had taken controlled-substance medications, Ativan and Lexapro. When participating in field sobriety tests, Perera “demonstrated clues of impairment,” the affidavit reads.

"Whatever gets thrown at you, you deserve it because where was your heart ‘cause that could’ve been your family,” Julie Benton said. 

Julie Benton and her husband, Adonis, witnessed part of the crash. Adonis Benton rushed toward a car that was on fire. He received help from another man.

"The back of the trunk was on fire and the back seat was on fire so the guy said he got a knife. So he cut the seatbelt and then me...we picked him up and then we sat him down in the median," Adonis Benton said.

Tragically, the person they rescued died. Unfortunately, two other people, who were in the car, did not survive either. Adonis Benton had no idea anyone else was in the car.

"The fire was so intense and that side of the car was smushed, you couldn't get to that side," Julie Benton said.

Adonis Benton then heard shouting from another car.

"She was screaming help, help, help get her out," Julie Benton said.

Adonis Benton and a few other people rescued the woman.

Perera was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Police say that while obtaining a blood sample at the hospital, Perera removed the vials of blood and hid them in her underwear.

“The defendant revealed that she had the blood vials after being confronted about it and she later urinated on the hospital room floor,” the affidavit states.

A second blood draw had to be completed after she tampered with the evidence. The results of the blood work are still pending.

Perera was charged with three counts of DUI Manslaughter, DUI Serious Bodily Injury, Hit and Run Failure to Remain Scene Involving Serious Injury/Death and Tampering with Evidence.

Her first court appearance will be on Saturday morning.

One out of the three deceased victims has been identified by police, the other two “remain unidentified due to their injuries/being burned beyond recognition in the crash,” police have confirmed that one of the victims was a child. The name of the one identified victim has not been released to the public at this time.

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