Florida deputy killed protecting woman from collision with wrong-way driver

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A Hillsborough County, Florida police officer has been hailed a hero after sacrificing his life to save a woman from a speeding SUV.

The Tampa Tribune reports that Sarah Geren was on her way home with her boyfriend around 2:45 a.m. on Saturday, driving from Ybor City to Valrico on the Selmon Expressway in Tampa.

An SUV driven by Erik McBeth, 31, had entered the same highway through an exit ramp and was heading west on an eastbound lane. Geren spotted the car’s headlights coming toward her and panicked. She flashed her lights repeatedly in an attempt to warn the other driver.

As the SUV continued to barrel forward, Geren decided to pull her car as far right as she could. But Deputy John Kotfila, 30, who was driving behind Geren, sped past her then and was hit by the speeding vehicle.

Geren witnessed the crash, the impact from the collision sending debris from both cars flying. She called 911 to report the wreck.

Kotfila, a six-year veteran with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department department, was taken to the hospital where he died from his injuries.

McBeth died on the spot. Authorities are investigating whether he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, according to WFLA.

1. Car on a highway
2. SUV drives west on eastbound lane
3. Driver flashes car lights in warning
4. Collision between SUV and police cruiser
5. Deputy and SUV driver killed in crash

VOICEOVER (in English):
“Sarah Geren was on her way home with her boyfriend early Saturday morning on Tampa’s Selmon Expressway.”

“An SUV had entered the same highway through the exit ramp, going the wrong way and headed straight for Geren.”

“Spotting the vehicle, Geren panicked and flashed her lights in an attempt to warn the other driver.”

“With the SUV still barrelling forward, Deputy John Kotfila, who was driving behind Geren, sped past her and was hit by the speeding vehicle.”

“The crash killed both Deputy Kotfila and the wrong-way driver, later identified as Erik McBeth.”

Tampa Tribune, Fox 19, Tampa Bay Times, WFLA, KLFY