SARASOTA (FOX 13) - A teenage driver has been arrested after a fiery crash killed the driver of a tanker truck and temporarily shut down part of Interstate 75 Tuesday morning.
The crash happened around 3 a.m. at mile marker 211 in the southbound lanes. Troopers believe the truck - which was hauling 8,500 gallons of gasoline - rear-ended a Volvo, then veered off the road and flipped over before catching fire.
The tanker was so engulfed in flames when emergency crews arrived, they had to simply let it burn. The driver, identified as 53-year-old Robert Drewelus of St. Pete, had been ejected and did not survive.
Witnesses to the crash said it was like nothing they'd ever seen.
"I heard a big boom I knew something was up," Ken Kohn, who was awakened by the crash recalled. "Honestly, I thought something crazy like missile strikes... As soon as I came out, I saw flames shooting 50, 80 feet in the air. "
Troopers say the damaged Volvo, meanwhile, fled from the scene. Investigators later spotted it at the Gateway Lakes apartment complex off North Cattleman Road.
They believe a 16-year-old was behind the wheel, with his younger brother in the car. The 16-year-old was arrested at a home in Lakewood Ranch later in the morning. He faces charges of violating his learner's permit restrictions and leaving the scene of an accident involving a death.
"He is driving on a learner's permit - first of all - which he shouldn't even be out at that hour, and second of all, there was not an adult, 21-year-old licensed driver with him," FHP Trooper Greg Bueno told FOX 13 News.
Troopers were still gathering information about what happened Tuesday evening, when a strong smell of gasoline still permeated the air at the crash site.
"We have to document what happened here and we want to determine, to the best of our ability, exactly what happened, and that is where we will be interviewing anyone with any information," Bueno explained.