Police identify real wrong-way driver in fatal crash
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. (WSVN) -- What began as a police chase in Opa-Locka, ended tragically with a wrong-way wreck that killed four innocent people.
It was a sad and complicated story. A driver who ran from the police and then caused an accident in which people were killed gave police the name of another man. Now that man feels like a victim as well.
Paolo LaFrance feels terrible about what happened. "Oh, my God," said LaFrance. "I'm so sorry. This is a horrific accident, and we should know who really did it."
Twenty-four-year-old Paolo LaFrance said he did not do it.
All day Wednesday, police identified him as the man who ran from police. He was accused of driving on the wrong side of Interstate 95 and slamming into a minivan that killed four people. "I reported in 2009 that my wallet had been stolen," said LaFrance, "And now, hearing this on the news, I just wanted to get my name cleared."
Wednesday night, police confirmed the wrong-way driver as 25-year-old Willie Dumel of North Miami Beach. "Mr. Dumel was carrying Mr. LaFrance's identification," said Opa-Locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton.
Police said Dumel's own family and fingerprints cleared up the mistake.
Police said the incident started with an attempted traffic stop in Opa-Locka. They said Dumel sped northbound on I-95, exiting on Ives Dairy Road. Investigators said he then headed west on the overpass, where police said, they stopped the pursuit.
Dumel then got back on to I-95 in the south bound lanes but headed north. That is when the deadly accident happened.
Jeff Kopelman was driving south on I-95 when he saw the massive collision, "I saw them; it was just one big great ball of smoke," said Kopelman.
Willie Dumel survived with two broken legs but several innocent people died.
A young man now hopes his name is cleared and a witness is left with a terrible memory. "That first thought is going to live with me for a long time," said Kopelman.
Willie Dumel remains in the hospital Wednesday. He faces a very long list of charges.
The Florida Highway Patrol has not released the names of the victims involved in the crash.
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