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Allegedly Intoxicated Wrong-Way Driver Accused in Death of St. Pete Man


A Polk City man is in jail today after authorities allege that he drove the wrong way on I-4 and initiated a fatal crash while under the influence of alcohol.

Twenty-four-year-old Travis Wade Coats is charged with DUI homicide and DUI with property damage for allegedly traveling west in the eastbound lanes of I-4 early Saturday and colliding with the 2016 Ford Fusion piloted by Demerrio Alistaire Tobler of St. Petersburg around a quarter past three o'clock. FHP troopers say that Coats' 2005 Dodge Ram struck Tobler's head-on just west of the Carpenters Way overpass in Lakeland. They indicate that Tobler expired on the scene of the accident.

Coats, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Tuesday, was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries. He was booked into jail after his release later that day. He is being held on a $252,500 bond.

Emily Jean Smart, also of Lakeland, is alleged by authorities to have struck Coats' vehicle as well. She was also transported to Lakeland Regional for treatment of minor injuries. Smart is not alleged to have committed any crimes and faces no charges.

Tobler, who was 32 at the time of his death, will be laid to rest on January 28 after a service at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.

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  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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