Investigators say a sport utility vehicle driving west in the eastbound lanes crashed head-on into Deputy John Kotfila's patrol cruiser just west of Interstate 75 as the deputy headed back to his station after wrapping up a crash investigation. It was 2:45 Saturday morning. The SUV's driver, identified as Erik Thomas McBeth, 31, of Hudson, died at the scene, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Firefighters pried the top off Kotfila's patrol car, then rushed him to Tampa General Hospital, where he also died. He was 30 years old from a family full of law enforcement officers.
"Our HCSO family is one less today," Sheriff David Gee said in a statement. "The tragic loss of one of my deputies has all of our hearts heavy."
Traffic homicide investigators believe that McBeth might have driven up the Brandon express exit ramp, where the expressway ends at Town Center Boulevard, said Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.