Tampa Alcohol Coalition reminds people to drive safely following several fatal DUI crashes

A 21-year-old driver is facing a DUI manslaughter charge after troopers say he crashed into a pick-up truck, killing his 20-year-old female passenger

James Whatley is accused of being impaired and speeding near I-75 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard before crashing into a pick-up truck. 

"I just think it's horrible that there's a family grieving right now," Tampa Alcohol Coalition Chair Ellen Snelling said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Whatley was heading east on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard approaching the I-75 interchange when he struck a pick-up truck traveling westbound and turning left onto the 1-75 entrance ramp. His passenger, a 20-year-old woman, was killed in the crash.

"They lost their loved one early this morning and for such a terrible reason. A person made that horrible choice to drink and drive and now a young person is dead," Snelling said.

Investigators say after the moment of impact, Whatley's car spun off the roadway and hit a guardrail before coming to a stop.

Earlier this month, a construction worker was killed after troopers say he was hit by a drunk driver. The driver Michael Forbes, 29, was charged with DUI manslaughter after FHP measured his blood-alcohol level at 0.151.

"We work very hard to prevent underage drinking and high-risk drinking and impaired driving and after all our hard work you still hear of incidents like this," Snelling said.

Snelling says right now fatigue from the pandemic along with excitement surrounding the Rays in the World Series could be contributing to more people drinking. With Halloween less than a week away, Snelling is urging everyone if you're going to be drinking make sure you have a plan in place to get home safe.

"I just encourage people to think twice. Don't make that terrible decision to get behind the wheel of a car after you've been drinking because you can lose your own life or you can take someone else's," Snelling said.

Whatley remains in the Hillsborough County Jail. As of right now, FHP is not releasing the identity of the woman killed.