TAMPA (WFLA) – Veteran Tampa Police officer Jesse Madsen was killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 275 early Tuesday morning.
Police say numerous people called 911 to report the wrong-way driver heading south in the northbound lanes just south of Busch Boulevard.
A woman stopped at a small memorial Wednesday to pay her respects to Madsen. She would only identify herself as “Chanel” but she says she was driving home from work when she witnessed the crash.
“I seen a car going really, really fast, the same direction that I was, but he was on the wrong side of the highway,” said Chanel.
She says Officer Madsemoved his car into the path of the wrong-way driver to protect others.
“What that officer did, he’s the real hero. He really is,” said Chanel.
Tampa police believe the car heading in the wrong direction was driven by Joshua Daniel Montague, 25, of Golden, Colorado.
Witnesses tell police Montague entered the Interstate at Busch Boulevard, but police have not been able to confirm that.
The Florida Department of Transportation has equipment installed on the Busch Boulevard on-ramp to detect and discourage wrong-way drivers.
“So if someone were to go up a ramp the wrong way, you’ll see a red and white sign that says wrong way and they will start flashing. It’s radar detected, it will start flashing to try and get the motorists’ attention. We’ve had many instances where the motorist will self-correct so we know these devices do work,” Kris Carson with FDOT said.
The night of the crash, the wrong way detection equipment was not activated.
“When we got word there was a wrong way driving crash, we had our contractor go out and check all of our devices and yes the one at Busch Boulevard was working. They did test it, it did work properly,” said Carson.
The wrong way detection equipment was first installed after a deadly series of wrong-way crashes in 2015.
Carson says there are plans to expand the program and says most wrong-way crashes have one thing in common.
“It’s drinking and driving. We call it wrong-way driving and it is wrong-way driving, but it’s really drunk driving. 90 plus percent of the cases we are seeing the person involved is inebriated in some fashion with drugs or alcohol,” Carson says the program’s expansion will take that into account. “We look at crash data, we look at where restaurants and bars are located, entertainment districts where there could be some drinking and driving. We even look at drunk driving arrest reports, put all of that data together and that’s where we determine where to go with these new devices,” said Carson.