Manatee County, FL – Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Deputy Antonio “Tony” Hernandez died in an off-duty car crash early Sunday morning.
The 22-year-old deputy was traveling northbound on Interstate 75 at approximately 4:50 a.m. when a 72-year-old driver traveling in the lane next to him attempted to change lanes near the S.R. 64 exit, WTVT reported.
The rear end of the driver’s van collided with the front end of Deputy Hernandez’s vehicle, causing the deputy’s vehicle to veer off into a grassy median, where it slammed into a steel pole, according to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).
Deputy Hernandez, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was rushed to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, WTVT reported.
The driver of the second vehicle involved in the crash was not injured, according to the Bradenton Patch.
The investigation into the fatal collision remains ongoing.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own,” Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells tweeted on Sunday. “This morning, Dep. Antonio Hernandez died from injuries sustained in a traffic crash, while off duty…Please keep his family & friends in your thoughts & prayers.”
Deputy Hernandez served the Palmetto Police Department before joining the MCSO in July.
“With heavy hearts, the Palmetto Police Department (PPD) extends our condolences to the family and friends of Deputy Antonio “Tony” Hernandez of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MSO),” PPD said in a Facebook post on Monday. “The sudden and tragic news of his passing has been devastating.”
“Although Antonio left PPD to work for MSO, he touched many lives and made many friends here at PPD,” the post read. “He is, and always will be, considered a member of our family. Rest easy, brother.
Deputy Hernandez was assigned to the MCSO patrol division in November, according to the Bradenton Patch.
“Antonio was a talented, hardworking deputy who showed professionalism and always had a smile,” MCSO spokesperson Randy Warren told the Bradenton Herald. “He will be missed. Please keep the Hernandez family, friends, and his law enforcement family in your thoughts and prayers.”
We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own. This morning, Dep. Antonio Hernandez died from injuries sustained in a traffic crash, while off duty. He began his career at @PalmettoPD before joining MCSO in July. Please keep his family & friends in your thoughts & prayers. pic.twitter.com/ocWV0P7dta
— Manatee Sheriff (@ManateeSheriff) December 20, 2020
Sheriff Russ Gibson and the @OsceolaSheriff stand with the residents of the State of Florida as we mourn the loss of @ManateeSheriff Deputy Antonio Hernandez. Deputy Hernandez was involved in traffic accident while off duty. pic.twitter.com/sl6Ggkfa2j
— Osceola County Sheriff's Office (@OsceolaSheriff) December 21, 2020
We send our deepest condolences to our law enforcement partners and family at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office who lost one of their own today. Deputy Antonio Hernandez passed away from injuries he sustained in a car crash. pic.twitter.com/j5puQwr8vm
— HCSO (@HCSOSheriff) December 20, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.