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Two Die in Wrong-Way Hernando Crash

Police | Police Tape | TB Reporter

The wrong-way driver ran a deputy and a truck off the road minutes before the fatal collision, the Hernando Sheriff’s Office said.

RIDGE MANOR – Two drivers were killed early this morning (July 4) in a wrong-way, head-on crash, the Hernando Sheriff’s Office said.

Tony Lavon Warthen, 37, of Brooksville, and Laura Billingsley, 23, of Webster, both died at the scene. Neither was wearing a seat belt, and Mr. Warthen was thrown from his vehicle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, which was called in to investigate the crash. The driver of a third car, Sara Grace Huff, 24, of Orlando, was not injured.

The collision happened about 1 a.m. on Cortez Boulevard (State Road 50) east of McKethan Road in Ridge Manor. A Hernando County sheriff’s deputy was driving east on Cortez when a vehicle approached traveling west in the eastbound lane. The deputy, and the driver of a truck traveling in front of the deputy, both swerved off of the roadway to avoid a collision.

Mr. Warthen, the wrong-way driver, continued heading west in the eastbound lane as the deputy tried to turn around and radio for assistance to another deputy who was on patrol near I-75 and Cortez Boulevard. About a minute after running the deputy off the road, the Mr. Warthen, who was driving a 2011 Dodge Charger, collided head on with a 2013 Kia Optima driven by Ms. Billingsley, which was traveling east on Cortez Boulevard near the Ridge Manor Campground.

Both vehicles spun and came to a rest on the north and south shoulders of the road. Mr. Warthen was thrown from his car upon impact, the FHP said.

Debris from the crash hit a 2013 Hyundai Elantra that Huff was driving. Huff had been in the westbound lane.

It is unclear when Mr. Warthen began driving in the wrong direction.

The crash closed Cortez/SR 50 until about 7:35a.m., troopers said.

For information about the Hernando sheriff, go to hernandosheriff.org.

Hernando Sheriff | Wrong-Way Driver | Head-On Crash | Traffic Crash | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter

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Two Die in Wrong-Way Hernando Crash
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Two Die in Wrong-Way Hernando Crash
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The wrong-way driver ran a deputy and a truck off the road minutes before the fatal collision, the Hernando Sheriff's Office said.
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TB Reporter
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