TAMPA, Fla. - A wrong-way driver caused a fiery crash that killed a group of University of South Florida students early Sunday morning, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers.
Three of the five people who died in the crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa were from the central Florida area.
Officials said 21-year-old Jobin Kuriakose, of Orlando, was driving a Hyundai Sonata with three passengers when they were hit by the wrong-way driver about 2 a.m.
Kuriakose's passengers were identified as 22-year-old Ankeet Patel, of Melbourne; 21-year-old Dammie Yesudhas, of Melbourne; and 20-year-old Imtiyaz Ilias, of Fort Myers.
Kuriakose was driving in the northbound lanes when the crash happened, officials said. The fifth victim, who hasn't been identified, was driving a white Ford Expedition southbound in the northbound lanes just prior to the head-on crash.
According to troopers, the Ford Expedition burst into flames and all of the occupants in the Hyundai Sonata were killed, along with the wrong-way driver.
Jade Wright was driving on I-275 and recorded the crash on her phone's video camera.
"He just smacked into a car and then it blew up and his truck went into the air," Wright said.
The four men were part of the University of South Florida's Sigma Beta Rho fraternity.
"My condolences to his brother and his family and everyone who was involved in this tragedy," said one friend of the victims.
While their families have asked for privacy, friends of the victims are rallying and have raised over $60,000 for their funerals.
"It's so senseless. Literally, like something that could have been prevented," said friend Mikayla Zafir.
The president of USF released a statement offering condolences and saying counsellors will be available to assist students on campus this week.
The highway was shut down for several hours and reopened around 7 a.m. The crash remains under investigation.
Investigators have not released the identity of the wrong-way driver.
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