A patrol officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office passed away from a fatal car accident on the upper deck of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway early Saturday morning. A SUV was driving west in the eastbound lane ended up colliding head-on with the patrol officer’s cruiser. The SUV’s driver died at the scene, while the patrol officer’s passed away at Tampa General Hospital later that morning.
Firefighters stated that they had to pry off the top of the patrol officer’s car in order to get him out. Traffic homicide investigators believe that the SUV driver might have driven up the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway exit ramp, where the expressway ends at Town Center Boulevard. A metal sign warning “Do Not Enter” and a pair of flashing yellow lights hang over the exit ramp.
According to Florida Highway Patrol records, wrong-way driving is a shockingly common trend in the Tampa Bay Area. In the past seven years, patrol officers have responded to at least 70 incidents of wrong-way drivers on limited-access highways around Tampa Bay. Furthermore, nearly 700 wrong-way accidents have taken place on local streets in 2014 alone. Law enforcement officials stated that in almost all of the wrong-way driving cases that resulted in an accident, the drivers were legally impaired from alcohol. Ultimately, many experts believe that wrong-way driving is more of a driver problem than an engineering problem.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office feels the weight of this tragic loss. The patrol officer that passed away in this collision is from a family of law enforcement officers. His father is a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police, his uncle is a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and his grandfather was a lieutenant the Massachusetts State Police. The patrol officer’s death drew words of sorrow and support from law enforcement agencies nationwide and from local elected officials.