Saturday, July 21, 2018
Public safety

Police identify family of three killed in fiery Selmon Expressway crash

TAMPA — The three people who died in a fiery wreck Thursday were all members of a New Tampa family, Tampa police said Saturday.

Luiz Felipak, 41, was the driver of the Hyndai sedan that was hit by a speeding 2014 Kia on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

Police tentatively identified the other two victims, pending DNA results, as Rita Felipak, 29, and the couple's daughter Giorgia, 8.

They lived, according to the police report, in a gated condominium complex in Tampa Palms North section of New Tampa.

Earlier Saturday, Amber Nicole Perera, the 29-year-old Kia driver, made her first appearance in court. She was charged after the crash with DUI manslaughter.

Perera, of Brandon, will be held in Hillsborough County Jail without bail until at least Wednesday, a circuit judge decided. She will next appear in court Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing, where a bail could be set. Perera has hired a private attorney, Tampa's Hubble Lawson.

"Obviously this a very sad situation," Lawson said as he and the family exited the courthouse Saturday morning. "There's no question it's a tragedy."

Lawson said he had just started working on the case and declined further comment until the pre-trial hearing.

Family and friends of Perera came to court Saturday morning but declined to speak with reporters.

They watched, and some cried, as Perera stood before the judge through a video conference. She was handcuffed and wearing a jail-issued gray sack dress.

Violet Perera of Riverview, the woman's grandmother, has told the Tampa Bay Times that her granddaughter had a seizure right before the crash at 4:12 p.m. Thursday. But Perera's arrest report made no mention of a medical emergency.

The report did say Perera admitted using prescription medications Ativan and Lexapro. Both substances are commonly prescribed for anxiety; Ativan is also used to control seizures.

Perera was passing other eastbound vehicles, police say, when she lost control of her Kia and hit a Hyundai sedan, sending it through the expressway median and into the westbound lanes. A Jeep and an Infiniti sport utility vehicle hit the sedan before it burst into flames.

Perera continued to drive and was arrested about 21/2 miles away from the crash, which shut down the expressway for 10 hours.

Perera faces three counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of a crash involving death and destruction of evidence.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

     
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