Deputy dies swerving in front of wrong-way driver, saving woman

Posted at 10:27 AM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 10:27:13-04

TAMPA — A police vehicle swerved in front of a wrong-way driver, saving a nearby driver but killing the Deputy inside.

At 3 a.m. Saturday morning, Sarah Geren was on her way home from work and Erik McBeth, 31, was driving west in the eastbound lane of Leroy Selmon Expressway, according to WFLA.

“I started to pull over to the side of the road, but that hadn’t even occurred all the way when the officer rushed around me … one or two seconds after he passed me, he hit the car, instead of me,” Geren told WFLA.

She says a Hillsborough County Deputy John Robert Kotfila Jr., 30, intentionally put himself between her and McBeth, saving her life.

“This man put himself in front of us as a human shield. Absolutely. He definitely saw what was going on. When I take a step back and look at the way everything occurred, he absolutely was a human shield for us,” said Geren.

His colleagues remember Kotfila fondly. Sheriff David Gee said, “The tragic loss of one of my deputies has all of our hearts heavy. The most dreaded part of being Sheriff of Hillsborough County is getting the news that a deputy has lost his or her life in the line of duty.”

“John was selected because of his attitude. He was a well-rounded person that you wanted to be around,” HCSO Sgt. Jeffery Massaro told WFLA.

Kotfila is a founding member of SafetyNet Team, which helps find people with special needs who have wandered away from home, according to WFLA.

Erik McBeth died in the crash, WFLA reports. Toxicology tests have not been completed and will reveal whether McBeth was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.