A 25-year-old woman was killed early Monday after driving the wrong way on Interstate 75 in Pasco County and hitting a semi-truck, authorities said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the woman was driving northbound in the southbound lanes at 4:35 a.m. when her 2012 Nissan sedan hit a southbound tractor-trailer hauling food and beverage products near St. Joe Road, which is about four miles north of State Road 52 in San Antonio.
Officials said the vehicle slammed into the semi and then a concrete barrier. The semi rolled over in the crash.
Troopers said the driver of the semi, Slawomir Plonski, 42, of Port St. Lucie, tried to avoid a collision by moving to the outside lane. He was unsuccessful, and the Nissan collided with the left side of the semi. Plonski was not injured.
The semi came to a stop on the highway while the Nissan traveled to the median and onto the concrete barrier wall.
The woman, identified as 25-year-old Jessica Mahn, was airlifted to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where she later died. Friends and family are grieving the loss.
“Jessica was one of a kind. She was a completely free spirit and yet as grounded as they come. I honestly can say that I have never met anyone that made the sacrifices she made in her life for others," said her friend, JeniLynn Knopp. "And in spite of all the things that she gave up for others, you never heard her complain or throw pity parties. In fact, she is the one that would make everyone laugh and smile."
Friends say Mahn was dating Tampa firefighter Christopher Harding. The Tampa Fire Department released this statement Monday afternoon;
"Tampa Fire Rescue is saddened by the tragic event that affected one of our firefighters today. Our hearts go out to the Mahn family as they deal with their grief. Tampa Fire Rescue is a family and we stand ready to provide support to Firefighter Harding during this painful time."
Mahn worked as a part-time bartender at Peabody’s in Tampa. She had also started working at O'Brien's Irish Pub in Brandon. Management at both bars said their hearts go out to the family.
It’s unclear if she was working that night, or where she got on the interstate. Troopers say they believe alcohol played a role in the crash.
The southbound lanes of I-75 were closed at mile marker 290, and traffic was diverted onto Blanton Road. One of the southbound I-75 lanes was reopened just before 7:30 a.m.
The crash marks the fifth serious wrong-way crash in a Bay area interstate highway this year, with 11 people being killed.