TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Many are asking whether a center guardrail would’ve made a difference in a fiery crash Thursday on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
Luiz Felipak, 41, was driving his wife Rita Felipak, 29, and their 8-year-old daughter Giorgia in the area of the Bay to Bay Boulevard and Euclid Avenue exits when they were killed in the crash.
Tampa police tell us the family’s car crossed into oncoming traffic, struck two cars and caught fire after Amber Perera, 29, slammed into the back of them, setting off the chain reaction crash.
Perera is accused of driving under the influence and leaving the scene.
There are several sections in that area without guardrails in the median.
“It certainly would have saved the lives of these three people, perhaps,” said Don Rogers, a witness who helped pull Luiz Felipak from the burning car.
Rogers wished he had more time to help and wished there were guardrails in the center median.
“They would’ve hit the center guardrail pretty hard, but it would’ve saved them from going completely across the way,” Rogers said.
Susan Chrzan, spokesperson for Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority says there have not been a lot of crossover accidents in that area.
“Sometimes they do put in guardrails, but it’s usually because of an accident rate, and right now, we’ve only had one other accident in the past 10 years that’s been a crossover accident,” said Chrzan.
The first accident wasn’t fatal and involved one car, according to Chrzan.
“In the past seven years, we’ve had over 100 million trips on that part of the road and only one other cross over accident,” she said.
She said guardrails aren’t required on the highway under national design standards. Chrzan said the expressway authority have installed about a mile of guardrail over the past few years.
Crash rates are reviewed every two years, according to Chrzan.
“Sometimes it [a guardrail] makes the accident worse, because you do like a ping pong effect, so that’s another thing that they have to look at, is to make sure that the cars don’t necessarily do that,” Chrzan said.
Chrzan says there’s another factor that could make situations more unpredictable.
“Unfortunately, there are still human factors and this was definitely a human factor, speeding under the influence, allegedly,” she said. “You can plan as much as you can and you can do safety as much as you can, but when you have a human factor involved, it’s very difficult to overcome that.”
The expressway authority will review crash rates later this year and will decide whether to install more guardrails along the expressway, Chrzan says.
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