Chilling radio calls give second-by-second account of deadly Hernando wrong-way crash

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office now has a second-by-second breakdown of a deadly wrong-way crash that took place on State Road 50 in the early morning hours of July 4.

A Hernando County deputy radioed in to dispatch to say he’d just been run off the road by a wrong-way driver.

“Had a west bound Charger headed east bound 85 plus miles an hour,” the deputy can be heard saying in a recorded radio transmission.

“Once he gets done with that radio transmission, within just a couple of seconds, he advises that the car has crashed,” said Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

The first radio call came in at 12:58:37 as the deputy is heading down State Road 50 at 55 mph, hour according to a tracking device on the deputy’s car.

At 12:58:47, the deputy slows to 46 mph.

The sheriff believes this is when he is run off the road.

At 12:58:57, the deputy slows to 11 mph as he turns to follow the car that has just run him off the road.

Sarah Huff was driving west on State Road 50 and initially thought the deputy was pulling her over.

She slowed as the speeding white Charger passed her on the wrong side of the road.

Huff said she then saw what was going on.

“I noticed there was a cop car chasing another car,” said Huff.

Sheriff Nienhuis maintains his deputy was still a good distance away from the accident when it happened.

Ten seconds after the deputy slowed to turn, he accelerated to 68 mph. Ten seconds after that, he was doing 84 mph.

His next radio transmissions are chilling.

“He just got into a signal four Hernando.. I need EMS,” says the deputy in the recorded call.

Seconds later he says, “I’ve got one passenger not moving in the victim car.”

The sheriff believes his deputy did all he could to prevent the fatal crash.

“The deputy has a decision to make. Ignore what just happened, which is not acceptable, or turn around and at least attempt to stop the people,” said Nienhuis.

The sheriff believes the wrong-way crash may have happened even if his deputy was not on the road at the time because the wrong way driver was driving so erratically.

The Florida Highway Patrol identified the wrong way driver as Tony Warthen, 37, of Brooksville.

Laura Billingsley, 23, of Webster, was also killed in the crash. She was driving the car that was hit head on by Warthen.

Follow Jeff Patterson on Facebook


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