Police: Innocent motorist among two hurt in street-racing crash

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Tampa Police are looking for the driver who fled the scene of a street-racing crash that sent two people to the hospital Wednesday, including an innocent driver.

According to police, the crash happened just before 11 a.m. on North Florida Avenue, not far from Busch Boulevard. Witnesses told investigators that a blue Dodge Challenger was racing a white Dodge Challenger southbound on Florida.

Police said the driver of the blue Challenger – identified as Michael Heiman – tried to switch lanes quickly to avoid stopped traffic, but traffic was stopped in the other lane too. He overcorrected and spun into the oncoming lanes, slamming into a Buick.

Heiman and the driver of the Buick were both hospitalized with severe but non-life-threatening injuries. Late Wednesday evening, Heiman was still being treated for his injuries but the other driver had been released and was recovering at home.

The driver of the white Challenger drove off.

Police said witnesses provided a possible license plate number, and investigators are working to track down that vehicle.

"I saw the accident happen. I saw the impact. We pulled up right on it, we were only a few cars behind him," said Eli Medina, who works at a car dealership near the scene. "To do what he was doing on a public road, I mean, we just went through this a couple weeks ago on Bayshore. It's not worth it. Innocent people are getting hurt over this stuff. There's safer alternatives. Luckily neither of them died, especially the innocent people."

Heiman, 23, was cited for the crash and arrested on charges of racing on public streets, driving on a suspended license, and aggravated careless driving.

The crash comes at a time of increased scrutiny of illegal street racing.  A mother and baby were killed when they were hit by a teenage driver, who police said was racing another teen down Bayshore Boulevard last month. Over the weekend, Tampa police arrested two men accused of racing across the Gandy Bridge; investigators said one of the drivers had children in the car.

"They have to know at this point they may think of it as a joyride they're not only putting themselves in danger, they're putting the general population in danger," said Eddie Durking, a spokesperson for Tampa Police, adding the department has seen an uptick in calls about street racing.  "We do have the community who are stepping up. As soon as they see people who are speeding, they're contacting us right away."

TPD has arrested 23 people for street racing since 2016. At least five of those arrests have come since the Bayshore crash two weeks ago.