Crashes a leading cause of death for deputies on duty

- Until Saturday morning, it'd been nearly six years since a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy was killed in the line of duty as a result of a traffic crash.

Yesterday, Deputy John Kotfila Jr. was struck head-on by a wrong-way driver on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Kotfila was rushed to Tampa General Hospital where he died as a result of his injuries.

Now, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is mourning the loss of one of their own.

The flags have been lowered to half staff, and roses placed before a statue at the HCSO law enforcement memorial. Fifteen plaques commemorate deputies killed in the line of duty, and soon a 16th will be added for Deputy John Kotfila, Jr.

Kotfila is the sixth HCSO deputy to die in a traffic-related incident, and nation-wide he's the 6th law enforcement officer to die in a crash just this year.

"We worry about being shot and we worry about all these other things that go on in our careers, but here's an example that, I think it's the second or third-leading cause of death for officers are these traffic crashes," says HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon.

In the last two decades, crashes have been the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers across the country, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

In 2015, 52 officers were killed on U.S. roadways, a six percent increase over 2014.

Investigators believe Eric McBeth, the driver of the SUV that hit Deputy Kotfila, likely drove around warning signs and barriers in order to enter the Selmon Expressway in the wrong direction.

A study released last year by the Florida Department of Transportation identified 280 wrong-way crashes between 2009 and 2013. One in five of those proved fatal.

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