PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper and a truck driver were killed Feb. 3 after the trooper followed a reckless driver who made an illegal U-turn into the opposite direction of Interstate 95, officials said.
The suspect initially got away and was chased by other troopers and deputies until he crashed into a tree and fled on foot. He was captured about five hours after the initial pursuit, following an extensive manhunt, authorities said.
A St. Lucie County deputy initially tried to stop the suspect because he was driving at twice the speed limit but disengaged several minutes later. Trooper Zachary Fink then picked up the pursuit, trying to stop the motorist out of concern he was endangering other drivers, said Col. Gary Howze, who heads the FHP.
After the suspect made an abrupt U-turn into the opposite direction of highway traffic, Fink followed, turning into the path of the tractor-trailer. The truck’s driver died at the scene, and the trooper was airlifted to a hospital, where he died, the agency said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on social media that “our hearts go out to” the trooper’s family and the Florida Highway Patrol.
Fink, 26, was a three-year highway patrol veteran, starting in Orlando before transferring to his hometown in the Port St. Lucie area. He’s survived by a fiancée and his parents, Howze said.
Several lanes of the major north-south highway were closed for most of the day because of the crash.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.