comscore Worker on front-end loader hits, kills Florida deputy
Top News

Worker on front-end loader hits, kills Florida deputy

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
  • JEFFEREE WOO/TAMPA BAY TIMES VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Sheriff Bob Gualtieri speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office headquarters, today, in Largo, Michael Hartwick, a Florida sheriff’s deputy working an overnight shift to provide safety at a construction zone was struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader, officials said.

    JEFFEREE WOO/TAMPA BAY TIMES VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sheriff Bob Gualtieri speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office headquarters, today, in Largo, Michael Hartwick, a Florida sheriff’s deputy working an overnight shift to provide safety at a construction zone was struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader, officials said.

  • DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD/TAMPA BAY TIMES VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Construction workers walk from the scene in the westbound lanes of I-275 near Gandy Boulevard, today, in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, was hit and killed overnight. Michael Hartwick, a Florida sheriff’s deputy working an overnight shift to provide safety at a construction zone was struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader, officials said.

    DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD/TAMPA BAY TIMES VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Construction workers walk from the scene in the westbound lanes of I-275 near Gandy Boulevard, today, in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, was hit and killed overnight. Michael Hartwick, a Florida sheriff’s deputy working an overnight shift to provide safety at a construction zone was struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader, officials said.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. >> A Florida sheriff’s deputy working an overnight shift to provide safety at a construction zone was accidentally struck and killed by a worker operating a front-end loader who is in the U.S. illegally, officials said today.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick had started his shift shortly before the accident happened late Thursday on Interstate 275, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a pair of news conferences today.

The initial name given by the worker, Victor Vazquez-Real, was false, Gualtieri said. His real name is Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, who the sheriff said is a migrant from Honduras who arrived in March and was deported previously.

“He shouldn’t have been here. He shouldn’t have been driving that thing,” Gualtieri said of the large road construction vehicle. “He shouldn’t be working.”

Molina-Salles fled from the job site on foot, allegedly with the help of a co-worker, but was eventually tracked down using bloodhounds, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said Hartwick had blocked the two inside southbound lanes of the interstate and was standing on the road’s shoulder when he was struck by the front end loader traveling at about 20 mph. Hartwick died instantly, Gualtieri said

The construction worker continued driving for about one 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 Molina-Salles’ gear and hid it in a wooded area, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said Molina-Salles will be charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death, which carries a minimum mandatory four-year prison sentence. The other construction worker is being charged with being an accessory after the fact.

It was not immediately known whether Molina-Salles has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf. He had not yet been booked into jail early this afternoon.

Hartwick had been with the agency for 19 years.

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

The company that employs the two workers, Tampa-based Archer Western Construction, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment. The company is involved in several large transportation projects in the Tampa Bay area, some involving contracts with the state of Florida.

Gualtieri said he referred the matter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has jurisdiction over immigration issues.

Comments (3)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up