BRANDON (FOX 13) - A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy died after being struck head-on by a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway early Saturday morning.
The deputy, identified as 30-year-old John Kotfila, Jr., had just finished a traffic crash investigation and was returning from a hospital.
Deputy Kotfila was a traffic crash investigator and a founding member of the agency's SafetyNet Team, which helped find missing adults and children with special needs who tend to wander from home. Deputy Kotfila was with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for 6 years.
The crash happened shortly before 3 a.m. in the eastbound lanes near the east end of the Expressway.
Authorities believe the wrong-way driver got onto the Expressway westbound from where it begins on Brandon Parkway. That portion of the highway is made up of reversible express lanes, and was only servicing eastbound traffic at the time.
Investigators believe the deputy tried to swerve to avoid the wrong-way driver, but was struck head-on.
Kotfila was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
The Tampa Bay law enforcement community sent condolences through social media for the loss of one of their own. Those tasked with working the crash scene seemed stunned by the accident.
"It's like losing a family member and it drives it home to all the deputies, because it could have been his car, it could have been anybody else's car," Colonel Greg Brown said. "It's not something any police executive wants to go through, when you lose somebody that works with you. It's probably the worst part of the job. We go through a lot, but when it's one of your own it's very hard."
"It literally looks like one of these vehicles that we see from an IED, where it was completely blown up," explained HCSO's Public Information Officer, Larry McKinnon. "We know that the front end of the vehicle was pushed almost completely into the driver's seat, so a very violent impact."
The wrong-way driver, identified at Erik Thomas McBeth, died at the scene. McBeth was from Hudson.