The incident occurred about 06:30 AM on State Route 66 near Old Crewsville Road in Zolfo Springs as Sergeant Ossman was on his way to work at the Hardee Correctional Institution, according to Fox News.
Weather conditions were rapidly deteriorating as Hurricane Irma approached, with rain bands ahead of the storm.
Sergeant Ossman was the driver of one vehicle, and Deputy Bridges was the driver of the second vehicle, which were involved in a head-on collision.
In a statement, the Florida Department of Corrections said:
“It is with a heavy heart that I must notify you of the untimely passing of Sergeant Joseph Ossman who was involved in a vehicle accident while reporting to work this morning.
Sergeant Ossman has been employed with the Department since May 17, 1996 and had over 21 years of dedicated service. Also involved in the vehicle accident was Deputy Julie Bridges of the Hardee County Sheriff’s Department who was in route home after working one of the local shelters last night. Our Chaplain is on duty and will begin providing grievance counseling to our staff.”
Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said, “We are heartbroken by this loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and fellow officers at this time.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said that he was “saddened”, and “We honor those working 24/7 to keep us safe.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott said that he was “heartbroken to learn of the loss of these two individuals in a traffic accident today.”
He said, “Our law enforcement and correctional officers work every day to keep Floridians safe. It is because of their work we are able to live in a state where people can raise their families safely. My heart goes out their families and the entire law enforcement and correctional community.”
Hardee Correctional Institution was not one of the prisons that the state evacuated prior to Hurricane Irma. It is located near Wauchula, east of Bradenton.
The Florida Highway Patrol is conducting the investigation. There were no other occupants in either vehicle.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Florida DOC Sergeant Joseph Ossman, both blood and blue. Godspeed, sir, we will take the watch from here. Thank you for your service.