Worker in front-end loader collision kills Florida congressman

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A Florida sheriff’s deputy, who was working a night shift providing security at a construction site, was struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader, officials said.

Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff Michael Hartwick had started his shift on Interstate 275 shortly before the incident late Thursday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference Friday morning.

Victor Vazquez-Real, 35, fled the scene but was arrested early Friday, Gualtieri said.

The sheriff said Hartwick was blocking the two southbound lanes of the Interstate and was standing on the shoulder of the road when he was struck by the front end loader, which was traveling at about 20 miles per hour. Hartwick died instantly, Gualtieri said.

The construction worker drove about a mile before stopping in a parking lot, the sheriff said. He then told another construction worker that he had killed a deputy. That worker took Vasquez-Real’s equipment and hid it in a wooded area, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said Vazquez-Real faces charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The other construction worker is subsequently charged with aiding and abetting. It was initially not known whether Vazquez-Real had a lawyer who could speak for him.

Hartwick had been with the agency for 19 years.

“Mike was a good guy, a good cop,” Gualtieri said. “He did his job.”

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