Driver killed in wrong-way crash on Selmon Expressway

- Tampa police are investigating a deadly wrong-way crash that killed a man on his way home from work. 

The crash happened shortly after 2 a.m. in the westbound lanes of the Selmon Expressway near the Platt Street exit.

According to investigators, 27-year-old driver Stephen Paleveda got onto the Selmon in the Hyde Park area going the wrong way. Shortly after, Paleveda crashed head on into a Nissan pickup truck and both vehicles caught fire. 

The driver of the Nissan, 68-year-old Bamnet Narongchai, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Detectives said Paleveda tried to flee from the scene on foot, but was arrested nearby.

Narongchai was on his way home from work, cooking for the public at the Wat Thai Temple, a job he's been doing for more than 30 years. Vipsa Willis, a friend from the temple, remembers Narongchai as a man willing to do anything for the job. 

"He's the barbecue man, he's the ice man," Willis recalled. "He goes to pick up the ice for the temple every Friday and Saturday."

Naronchai's blood family, and temple family, are still in shock, but Willis says they are leaning on each other for comfort. 

"We are all a family group here, you know we comfort each other a lot. We never let people down."

Tampa police confirmed that alcohol did play a factor in the early morning crash. 

The Wat Temple plans to hold three nighttime memorial services over the coming week. 

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