Wife mourns truck driver killed in I-75 crash

Posted at 10:28 PM, Mar 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 10:39:12-04

Robert Drewelus, 53, was just doing his job delivering fuel when the tanker he was driving full of 8,500 gallons of gasoline hit a car, causing it to veer off the road into the median and burst into flames.

“Shock, I am still in shock,” Elsie Nieves-Drewelus said. “And, I am hoping this is just a bad nightmare, and I'll wake up from it.”

Nieves-Drewelus said she got a phone call just after 3 a.m. from the Florida Highway Patrol. They told her a trooper was en route to her family’s home in St. Petersburg. Then she turned on the television.

“I saw on TV there was an accident with a tractor trailer and I knew it, my heart told me, my heart told me,” Nieves-Drewelus said.  

According to the preliminary accident report from FHP, the driver of the car in front of the tanker was driven by a 16-year-old. His 15-year-old brother was a passenger. After the accident the 16-year-old fled the scene and was arrested a short time later. The 16-year-old, whose name we are not releasing because he is a minor, is charged with leaving the scene with death, a second degree felony, and violation of learner license restriction.

“Why were they out at that hour in the morning? A kid that age is supposed to be in bed and getting ready for school in the morning,” Nieves- Drewelus said. “And their negligence or carelessness caused my husband his life, and there is no sorry in the world to me that is going to bring him back to me.”

Nieves-Drewelus said they just spent a wonderful Easter together and were planning a cruise for their one year wedding anniversary on May 4.

“My husband was full of life. He didn't have a bad bone in him, my gentle giant. I love my husband very much, and I won't be able to say goodbye to him in the condition of his body,” Nieves-Drewelus said. “I won't be able to touch him and give him his last kiss cause his body can't be viewed in the condition it is in.”

FHP continues to investigate the cause of the crash. According to Nieves-Drewelus, she was told her husband was cut off and veered off the road to avoid crashing into the back of the car driven by the teen.

“He said ‘your husband saved two lives today.’ I guess whoever it was cut in front of him and he veered away from hitting them off the road,” Nieves-Drewelus said. “He was an excellent driver. He had been doing this for 31 years.”