TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A 38-year-old road ranger is in the hospital with serious injuries after being hit by a vehicle while responding to a fiery tractor-trailer crash in Brooksville, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Troopers were called to a crash involving a tractor-trailer in the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 near mile marker 301 just before 2 a.m.
Troopers said the truck, which was carrying a load of frozen food, crashed into a barrier wall after passing slower traffic. It caught fire after coming to a rest in the northbound lanes. The driver suffered minor injuries.
Troopers said a road ranger was responding to the crash, and was setting up a detour at Exit 293 when a Toyota Sienna went around the traffic cones and ran into him.
The driver, 71-year-old Everett Simpson told News Channel 8 that he did not see the road ranger, and wants him to know he is sorry.
“I tried to swerve and miss him. I’m sorry I hit him. I tried to tell the policeman to tell him that. I was coming around a curve and there he was right there,” said Simpson. “I’m sorry.”
Simpson was cited for careless driving.
“Road rangers are a big family just like we’re a big family at the Department of Transportation. And there’s some emotions running strong today. So we just have to ask for prayers and support for the road rangers,” said FDOT Spokesperson Kris Carson.
Carson said the agency is pleading with drivers to slow down and follow the move over law.
“It’s surprising and really unfortunate. Anytime you see flashing lights out there you need to slow down. It doesn’t matter if it’s tow truck driver, road ranger, law-enforcement, ambulance. That’s the whole point of the move over law. Slow down, move over a lane, and if you can’t, you need to go 20 miles under the speed limit,” said Carson.
According to the FDOT, five road rangers have been killed and 79 injured in the line of duty since the program started in 2001.