A Dunedin man has been charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide after police said he crashed into a construction crane in closed-off lanes of U.S. Highway 19, killing his passenger.
Clearwater police said the crash occurred at 11:22 p.m. May 18 in the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 at Harn Boulevard when Bryant Mendoza, 47, drove his Jeep Grand Cherokee into the right and middle lines despite their being closed off. A witness to the crash also said he was speeding, according to authorities.
A 37-year-old female passenger in the Jeep was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where she died.
Clearwater police also said Mendoza was involved in another crash about an hour before he struck the crane. That crash, a rear-end collision, occurred at 10:19 p.m. at U.S. 19 and Flournoy Boulevard. The responding officer arrived at 10:55 p.m. and Mendoza was cited for careless driving.
The second crash occurred just over an hour later about a half-mile north of the first location. The Clearwater Police Department said it will conduct an internal investigation to determine if the officer failed to investigate if Mendoza was driving under the influence at the time of the first crash.
Mendoza was booked into the Pinellas County Jail May 19 after being treated for minor injuries at Bayfront.