LAKELAND, Fla. - Nearly one month ago, two Lakeland men were killed in a suspected DUI crash, and investigators announced the driver has been charged.
On Tuesday, Polk County detectives arrested 31-year-old Justin Mathis of Highland City. He faces charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI with property damage.
The deadly crash occurred around 9:46 p.m. on November 20 on U.S. Highway 98 and County Road 540A in the Highland City area of Lakeland. When deputies arrived, they found the passengers were dead: 34-year-old Christopher Lofton and 38-year-old David Weldon.
The driver of the vehicle, Mathis, was taken to Lakeland Regional Health. The second driver involved, a 59-year-old man from Tampa, was not injured. The Tampa man was operating a green 1998 Freightliner truck. He was traveling in the southbound lane of U.S. 98.
Scene photo of the November 20th crash (Photo provided by Polk County Sheriff's Office)
Mathis was driving a silver 2018 Chevrolet Silverado when he ran into the back of the trailer going 50 mph. The right front of the pickup truck was wedged underneath the semi-trailer.
During the investigation, detectives obtained a search warrant for blood collected from Mathis when he was admitted into the hospital. It was eventually sent to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab for analysis.
The result later came back to show there was a blood alcohol level of 0.25, which is three times the legal limit.
"There is no excuse to get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you've been drinking," Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. "With the advent of ride sharing apps, there are a variety of alternate transportation options out there. Please, don't drink and drive - just like in this instance, it can be fatal."