A wrong-way driver and her two passengers were killed in a head-on crash with a gasoline tanker truck on Interstate 275 just south of Bearss Avenue early today, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The fourth fatal wrong-way crash on I-275 in Tampa this year happened just before sunrise (6:10 a.m.). It kept the northbound lanes of the interstate closed for until about 11:15 a.m.

Troopers said a 2013 Honda sedan was traveling south in the inside lane of northbound I-275 when it collided with a Gemini Motor Transport tanker that was headed north. Both vehicles came to rest in the northbound lanes.

The car's driver, 33-year-old Gabrielle A. Lanier of Tampa, and passengers Lakritra R. Lanier, 31, of Tampa and John Lee Pierson, 26 of Riverview, all died at the scene. Lanier was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Pierson was in the back of the car, troopers said.

It was not immediately clear when, where or why the women entered the interstate heading in the wrong direction.

The driver of the tanker, 50-year-old Michael Kellogg of Lakeland, was not injured. No fuel was spilled, but the crash created a lot of debris.

Family members gathered at the Lanier sisters' Tampa home. They said they didn't know how such a thing could happen.

“I wish they had been at home and maybe we’d have the opportunity to have them a little bit longer,” said Lakritra's ex-husband, Zebadiah Lanier. Lakritra leaves behind 5 children, Gabrielle leaves behind 4.

“It’s hard everybody’s trying to digest and really grasp what really happened.”

This was the fourth wrong-way fatal crash on I-275 in Tampa in seven months.

On Feb. 9, Daniel Lee Morris, 28, drove south in the northbound lanes of I-275 and collided near Busch Boulevard with a 2010 Hyundai carrying four University of South Florida fraternity brothers. All five men died.

Less than two weeks later, Chase Kaleb Leveille, 25, drove a Honda Civic north on the southbound side of I-275 and collided with a rental truck near Bearss Avenue. Leveille was killed and the two men in the truck were injured.

Then, last month, 23-year-old Edward Jose Duran was killed when he crashed into an ambulance after entering I-275 from I-4 going north in the southbound span.

"In every case prior to this, it's actually been a U-turn that started the whole wrong-way incident," said FHP spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins. "So it's not that drivers are entering the interstate on the wrong ramp or anything like that. They're actually making U-turns on the highway, so it's hard to prevent, hard to predict."

Impairment was at least suspected in the previous wrong-way crashes. Toxicology results from this crash will be known in four to six weeks, the FHP said.

The Lanier family is devastated to be part of such an alarming trend of wrong-way crashes in the area.

“Whatever we need to do as a community or as a people to prevent this from happening again, I’ll sign up first to be a part to make sure this never happens again,” said Lanier.

Family members of John Pierson said they are very distraught. An aunt said she didn't know where Pierson and the women might have been headed.

"We don't know what happened, just that he was in the backseat," said aunt Carla McCall. "We just ask the community for prayers."

Florida Department of Transportation officials are taking steps to better protect motorists against wrong-way drivers. Message boards warn motorists after the first 911 call. And the agency is testing interstate sensors that would automatically notify the FDOT of a wrong-way driver even before that first 911 call.

"Between FDOT, FHP and other local law enforcement trying to do what they can to alert drivers to a situation like this, drivers need to stay alert, watch what they're doing, be cautious, move out of the way if they can," Gaskins said.

The Lanier family said the sisters lived together. Lakritra was working toward her nursing degree.