RIDGE MANOR (FOX 13) - A wrong-way driver forced a Hernando County deputy off the road overnight before slamming head-on into another car, killing himself and the other driver.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the deputy was driving eastbound on Cortez Boulevard in the Ridge Manor area around 1 a.m. when a Dodge Charger traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes forced him off of the roadway.
The deputy was not injured. He reported the near-crash and pulled back onto Cortez to go after the Charger. However, the wrong-way driver had already collided head-on with a Kia Optima at McKethan Road near the Ridge Manor Campground.
The driver of the Charger was ejected from the car and both drivers died at the scene, despite the deputy's rescue efforts. A third vehicle was damaged due to the road debris from the accident.
Troopers have since identified the wrong-way driver as 37-year-old Tony Warthen of Brooksville. FOX 13's Kellie Cowan reports that troopers suspect alcohol played a role in the crash, but they will have to wait for Warthen's toxicology reports to know for sure.
The driver of the Kia, meanwhile, was identified as 23-year-old Laura Billingsley of Webster.