Two law enforcement officers in Florida were killed in a car accident Sunday morning in Hardee County when their vehicles struck each other head-on, but the state Highway Patrol can’t say whether Hurricane Irma was a contributing cause.
According to an incident report from the Patrol: Sgt. Joseph Ossman was driving to report to duty at the Hardee Correctional Institution, while separately Hardee County sheriff’s deputy Julie Ann Bridges was reportedly leaving a hurricane shelter where she’d been assigned to work.
Ossman was driving westbound and Bridges was headed east in a marked sheriff’s car when their vehicles collided at about 6:30 a.m. on State Road 66 near Old Crewsville Road in Zolfo Springs, the patrol said.
Ossman, 53, of Sebring, was a 21-year veteran of the Florida Department of Corrections, agency Secretary Julie Jones said.
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“We are heartbroken by this loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and fellow officers at this time,” Jones said in a statement.
Hardee Correctional Institution — near Wauchula, east of Bradenton — was not among the prisons the state evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma, FDOC said.
The Naples Daily News reported Bridges, 42, of Wauchula, was a 13-year veteran of the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office who had been helping to staff a hurricane shelter prior to the crash, the newspaper reported.
A spokeswoman from Gov. Rick Scott’s office first announced the fatal accident before 11 a.m. when additional details about the crash — such as exactly when or where it occurred — were not yet available.
In a statement issued a statement a few hours later, Scott said he was “heartbroken to learn of the loss of these two individuals in a traffic accident today.”
“Our law enforcement and correctional officers work every day to keep Floridians safe,” he said. “It is because of their work we are able to live in a state where people can raise their families safely. My heart goes out their families and the entire law enforcement and correctional community.”