Wrong-way driver forces deputy off road, causes fatal head-on crash in Hernando County

Posted at 5:01 AM, Jul 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-04 17:31:28-04

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal wrong-way driver crash in Hernando County early Tuesday. 

At approximately 12:59 a.m. a Hernando County deputy was driving eastbound on Cortez Boulevard, near McKethan Road, in Ridge Manor, when a wrong way driver, identified as Tony Lavon Warthen, 37, of Brooksville, was traveling west in the eastbound lane. The deputy and a driver of a truck traveling in front of the deputy, both swerved off the road to avoid hitting the wrong way driver. 

The wrong-way driver continued heading west in the eastbound lane. The deputy attempted to turn around and call for assistance to another deputy who was in the area. 

About a minute after running the deputy off the road, the driver crashed head-on with the driver of another vehicle, who was traveling east on Cortez Boulevard, near the Ridge Manor Campground. That driver has been identified as Laura Billingsley, 23, of Webster, Florida. 

The drivers of both vehicles died at the scene of the crash. Both drivers were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the head-on crash. 

The deputy involved in the first encounter with the wrong way driver was not injured. 

Cortez Boulevard was closed from McKethan Road to Westwood Drive for nearly six hours while the Florida Highway Patrol investigated the crash. 

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