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FHP identifies SUV driver in deadly Howard Frankland Bridge crash

Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 06:14:36-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Highway Patrol identified 53-year-old Hiran Vaz as the driver who drove off the Howard Frankland Bridge and crashed into the water.

The multi-vehicle crash happened Wednesday around 7:30 a.m. Numerous crews responded frantically searching for the driver in the water.

Divers and rescue crews located a white Saturn SUV about 45 minutes later. Authorities searched for the driver and any occupants Wednesday and into Thursday.

FHP announced just before 1 p.m. on Thursday that the Pinellas Sheriff's Office found Vaz body near the bridge.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, Vaz was driving his white SUV reckless manner near mile marker 34.

The driver overtook a Ford F-150 at a high rate of speed, then began to tailgate the truck. The SUV moved to the inside center lane, and the pick up changed lanes in front of it. The SUV changed lanes again and tried to pass the pick up truck, and the truck made another lane change into the path of the SUV. As a result, the left rear of the truck collided with the front right side of the truck.

“My God I just heard the truck was clipped and it flipped over the Frankland,” Harolyn Rubio said. “I mean, you just don’t know. I mean you see people and don’t know if that’s the last day on Earth that you are going to see somebody.”

Rubio lives next door to Vaz and told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska he is married with a teenage son.

Rubio said she spoke to Vaz's wife earlier Thursday.

“She was devastated, crying, so I held her and prayed with her and let her know that we are here if there is anything we could do to help,” Rubio said.

Rubio also told us Vaz was from Brazil and worked in Tampa as a window washer outside high rise buildings.

After the SUV Vaz was driving went into the water, the truck that FHP says clipped him rotated into the center concrete wall and came to a rest in the center lanes of the bridge. The SUV overturned multiple times before hitting the outside concrete barrier, going off the bridge and into the water.

Traffic came to a halt while the search was underway, with some drivers waiting on the shoulder worried about running out of gas.

FHP said charges are pending.