HCSO flags at half-staff in honor of deputy killed in wrong-way crash

Wrong-way driver slammed into deputy's cruiser head-on

Deputy John Kotfila Jr.(center) and his father Sergeant John Kotfila Sr.(left) with the Massachusetts State Police and his brother Michael Kotfila with the Plymouth Police Department, MA, in their respective law enforcement uniforms. Image HCSO

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the deputy and the wrong-way driver killed in the crash on the Selmon Expressway early Saturday morning.

Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr., 30, has been with the HCSO for six years.

RELATED: Hillsborough Deputy Kotfila rescues kitten from storm drain

HCSO Sheriff ordered all Hillsborough flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Deputy Kotfila. Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee released the following statement:

“Our HCSO family is one less today. The tragic loss of one of my deputies has all of our hearts heavy. The most dreaded part of being Sheriff of Hillsborough County is getting the news that a deputy has lost his or her life in the line of duty. I know the citizens of Hillsborough County – and from all corners of this great nation – join HCSO as we mourn. But this sadness is tempered with an enduring pride that our deputy fought the good fight. That is our vow – then, now and tomorrow. We will embrace our deputy’s family with the honor and respect due to one who dedicated his life “to serve and protect.” Thank you for your prayers for our deputy and his family.”

A wrong-way driver is dead along with Deputy Kotfila after the wrong-way crash on the Selmon Expressway, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

The fatal crash happened around 2:45 a.m. eastbound of the Selmon on the upper deck of the expressway at the Brandon Express exit near Interstate 75. The wrong-way driver, an adult male, was traveling west in the eastbound lanes. The HCSO deputy, who had just left Tampa General Hospital following a traffic crash investigation, was traveling eastbound was struck head-on.

HCSO Colonel Greg Brown said that this was a high-speed crash.

“It… appears the deputy was trying to get out of the way,” he said. “This is highlighting a much bigger issue between distracted driving and DUI. At this time of night, there are a lot of people who have been consuming alcoholic beverages out on the road, but we need to pay attention to what we are doing on the road.”

The wrong-way driver Erik Thomas McBeth, 31, was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputy was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The Traffic Homicide Unit is continuing the investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office says all of the traffic control devices were in working order showing the ramp closed to westbound traffic. It is unknown if alcohol was involved at this time. Officials say Deputy Kotfila was in a marked cruiser. The crash only involves those two vehicles.

The deputy, according to HCSO, comes from law enforcement family. The family is from out of state and on the way to our area now.

“We go through a lot, but when its one of your own, it’s very hard,” Col. Brown said. “These guys are very concerned about the drivers at night. In fact, this deputy had hoped to become a traffic homicide investigator at some point in his career.”

Chairman Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr. issued a statement on the death of Dep. Kotfila on behalf of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners:

“Hillsborough County has suffered a tragedy today with the loss of Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr. of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is unfortunate that anyone has to experience the grief and pain from a fatal traffic incident, but especially for our law enforcement officers who dedicate their lives to keeping each of us safe. On behalf of all of the citizens of Hillsborough County, I offer condolences and prayers to Deputy Kotfila’s family, and the family of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.”

Tampa Bay area wrong-way crashes 2008-2016 (Information courtesy FDOT)

Click on the map locator to find out the details about the crash


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