Citrus County deputy critically injured after being struck by 19-year-old while directing traffic: FHP

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office is asking for prayers after one of its deputies was struck by a vehicle Wednesday night while directing traffic after a high school graduation.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Deputy Andy Lahera, and several other deputies, were directing traffic at the intersection of Saunders Way and South Lecanto Highway following the Lecanto High School graduation when he was hit by a 19-year-old female traveling south on South Lecanto Highway.

Troopers say deputies on the scene immediately began performing life-saving measures on Lahera and other first responders responding to the scene administered first aid.

Deputy Lahera was flown to an area trauma center where he is currently stable, but in critical condtion. The sheriff's office said he sustained multiple broken bones, fractures, abrasions and internal injuries. 

The Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast thanked the community for its support during this difficult time. A statement from the sheriff reads: 

"Deputy Lahera is an exceptional member of our team and a highly-approachable, lovable individual. He is a big teddy bear who is loved by all. As a School Resource Deputy, he has made a significant lifelong impact on the lives of so many children. Deputy Lahera is an outstanding professional, and I am proud to have him on our team. We are praying for his family and for a full recovery during this difficult time."

The sheriff's office said Deputy Lahera remains unconscious but is surrounded by his wife, children and several of his fellow CCSO deputies. 

According to the Citrus County School District, approximately, 4,000 people attended the LHS graduation, including 370 graduates. The District also revealed that Lahera was a school resource officer. 

Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel said, "Last night, one of our school resource officers was involved in a traffic accident after he was struck by a vehicle after the Lecanto High School graduation. We send our continued prayers to the Lahera family, his law enforcement family, and our entire community. We have school counselors on campus at several of our schools today throughout the county to support our faculty and students to help them cope with this terrible accident."

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating what led to the crash. Sheriff Prendergast says there was no sign of any braking and that the deputy's reflective vest and emergency lights should have been easily visible. 

Deputies say the driver has been cooperative and that her vehicle is being examined, to determine whether speed was a factor, among other things.

Deputy Lahera has worked at CCSO for 14 years and has been a school resource deputy since 2018 with his current assignment at Lecanto Middle School. The sheriff's office also said Nature Coast FOP 164 organized a meal train with all proceeds going directly to the deputy's family.