Worker on front-end loader hits, kills Florida deputy

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ST. PETERSBURG – A Florida sheriff’s deputy who was on a night shift to provide security at a construction site was hit and killed by an employee operating a front loader.

According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff Michael Hartwick had started his shift shortly before the incident happened late Thursday night on Interstate 275.

Victor Vazquez-Real, 35, fled but was arrested early Friday.

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The sheriff said Hartwick had blocked the two southbound lanes of the highway and was standing on the verge when he was hit by the front loader traveling at about 20 mph. He was instant dead

The construction worker continued for about a mile before stopping in a parking lot, the sheriff said. He then told another construction worker that he had killed a deputy sheriff. That worker took Vasquez-Real’s belongings and hid them in a wooded area, the sheriff said.

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The sheriff said Vazquez-Real will be charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The other construction worker is later accused of accessories.

Hartwick had been with the agency for 19 years.

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

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