Deputy dies after being hit by ‘suspected drunk driver’ on I-75, Florida sheriff says

Facebook video screengrab

A Florida sheriff’s deputy working a traffic stop died in a chain reaction crash caused by “a suspected drunk driver,” according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The deputy was identified as Christopher Taylor, and he celebrated his 23rd birthday on Saturday, Nov. 19, according to a news release.

It happened around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, during a traffic stop on Interstate 75 in Punta Gorda, Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said in a video posted on Facebook.

“Deputy Taylor was out of his vehicle, speaking with the driver of the stopped car. ... Another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed struck the patrol car, which subsequently hit Deputy Taylor,” Prummell said.

“Life-saving measures were given on the scene by good Samaritans and later by Taylor’s brothers and sisters in green. Deputy Taylor was trauma transported to Punta Gorda ShorePoint Health and regrettably succumbed to his injuries,” the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators said the crash happened when 30-year-old Cassandra Smith lost control of her Jeep and veered “across three lanes into the shoulder striking the deputy.” She called 911 from the scene, officials said.

Smith was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol and is charged with DUI manslaughter, officials said. She is from Lakeville, Massachusetts, station WBBH reports.

“This is Smith’s second arrest for DUI, and she just completed her probation in August,” Prummell said.

Taylor joined the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office in August 2021 and was officially sworn in Feb. 14, officials said.

“In his little less than a year of service to Charlotte County, Chris exemplified the core values of the CCSO; integrity, professionalism, and trust,” Prummell said in a news release. “Losing a deputy is unspeakably difficult for the agency, but the passing of such a promising and kind young man is a tremendous loss for the world.”

Charlotte County is about 90 miles south of Tampa.

The crash comes at a time when traffic on the nation’s roads has dramatically increased due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

‘Blue and unresponsive’ toddler in pool saved by woman who heard Florida mom yelling

Motel guest kills 1 staffer and tries shooting another, but gun jams, Florida cops say

Baffling crash saw passing car drive onto trailer, teeter off edge, Florida crew says