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Police: Alcohol believed to be factor in deadly wrong way traffic crash on Selmon Expressway

27-year-old Seffner man in custody
Posted at 8:05 AM, Oct 21, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. — A 68-year-old man was killed early Sunday when his vehicle collided head-on into a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on the Selmon Expressway, Tampa police said.

Police identified the victim as Bamnet Narongchai of Tampa.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday an F-250 pickup truck traveling eastbound entered the westbound lanes of the Selmon Expressway, the Tampa Police Department said. The pickup, traveling in the wrong direction, slammed head-on into a vehicle driven by Narongchai on the Selmon just east of the Platt Street exit ramp.

Following the traffic crash, the driver of the F-250, who police identified as 27-year-old Stephen Joseph Paleveda of Seffner, ran. Paleveda was found a short distance from the crash scene, a police report said.

Paleveda was treated for injuries, the release said.

The incident began shortly after midnight when a witness told police an F-250 pickup truck was spotted driving recklessly in the area of South MacDill Avenue and West Hawthorne Road.

The front lights of the F-250 were off. The F-250 failed to stop for several red lights and was seen headed the wrong way on one-way streets. According to police, the witness lost sight of the vehicle near West Cleveland Street.

Alcohol was a factor in the crash, the release said. Charges are pending.

Westbound lanes on the Selmon were shut down for nearly six hours while Tampa police investigators gathered evidence and cleared the scene. All lanes reopened shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday.

Narongchai's family said he volunteered at the Wat Thai Temple in Tampa. His friends said he volunteered there for 37 years. 

"He's just so nice (and) so good," Nite Smith said.

Smith said she was a close friend and volunteered with him. 

"I can't believe it," Smith said.

His friends described him as a hard worker who cared about his family and his community.

"I can't accept that he's gone. Everybody's so going to miss him....really dearly," On Winkler said.

Winkler said there will be a service at 7 p.m. Sunday in honor of Narongchai's memory at the Thai Temple.