Second wrong-way crash in two weeks closes NB Howard Frankland Bridge

- A wrong-way crash involving alcohol closed the northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge, troopers said. It's the second crash of its kind in less than two weeks on the bridge.

Around 2 a.m., Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the wrong-way driver, 25-year-old Andy Andreia Cuff, Jr. made a U-turn near the hump of the bridge and began traveling southbound in the northbound lanes.

Within two minutes, his 2008 Chrysler 300 collided nearly head-on with a 2013 Hyundai near the 4th Street exit. Both vehicles had serious front-end damage.

Troopers said 24-year-old Andrea Nicole Rusch was driving the Hyundai and suffered critical injuries.

Cuff, who is from St. Petersburg, was injured, as well. Both were transported to St. Joseph's Hospital, but Cuff was discharged after 6 a.m. and arrested on a DUI charge. 

On the morning of October 19, a similar wrong-way crash also occurred in the same area. Troopers said it was alcohol-related, and the wrong-way driver, 46-year-old Renard Antonio McGriff of Pinellas Park, also made a U-turn near the hump of the bridge before traveling southbound in the northbound lanes.

McGriff died after the collision, troopers said. Two other vehicles were involved. One driver had no injuries, while the other had critical injuries at the time.

John Milligan was driving on the Howard Frankland Bridge early Thursday morning at the same time as Cuff. He knew that something wasn't right.

"I come to this guy. He's just sitting in the middle, second to left lane, doing 40," Milligan said. "And, as I'm coming up on him, he starts to speed up to my speed. As soon we're getting towards the hill, he hits the turn signal and the second I turn around, he just swerves into my lane."

Milligan started slowing down. He watched Cuff make the complete U-turn and begin driving southbound in the northbound lanes. That's when he called FHP.

"I was like, I hope this guy doesn't kill anybody and, literally after I got over that hump, he hit that lady almost head-on," Milligan said. "I was like, holy cow. I was that close to being that poor lady. It's scary."

In court Thursday afternoon, a judge set Cuff's bond at $5,000. He can't operate a vehicle, can't drink alcohol, and must use GPS and Continuous Alcohol Monitoring systems.

"Treat every steering wheel as though it was a bomb. You will not touch it," the judge said.

"It's unfortunate that it's the same type of crash in almost the same exact spot," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins of Florida Highway Patrol, referring to the previous wrong-way crash. "The correlation between the two is alcohol."

Gaskins advises all drivers to keep their eyes on the road, especially at night, gaze far into the distance for potential danger, and, don't get distracted.

"Travel in the outside lanes, not in the left lanes, the fast lanes that people call them," Gaskins said. "Stay right at night. An impaired driver frequently thinks he's on the correct side of the road, even though he's in the wrong direction."

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