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Falmouth native serving as Fla. sheriff’s deputy killed in crash

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy John Kotfila Jr. (center) was seen with his father, Massachusetts State Police Sergeant John Kotfila Sr. (left), and his brother, then-Plymouth Police Officer Michael Kotfila, in an undated photo.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy John Kotfila Jr. (center) was seen with his father, Massachusetts State Police Sergeant John Kotfila Sr. (left), and his brother, then-Plymouth Police Officer Michael Kotfila, in an undated photo.Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Department

A Florida sheriff’s deputy who grew up in Falmouth and who hails from a long line of Massachusetts police officers died early Saturday after his cruiser was struck by a wrong-way driver on a highway.

Deputy John R. Kotfila Jr., a six-year member of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department, died at a Tampa hospital after his cruiser collided with another car, according to Larry McKinnon, a department spokesman.

He is the son of Massachusetts State Police Sergeant John R. Kotfila Sr. and the brother of Falmouth Police Officer Michael Kotfila.

“It’s a tragedy,” John Kotfila Sr. said by telephone Saturday night from his home in Falmouth.

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The crash occurred at 2:45 a.m. on the Selmon Expressway in Brandon, a suburb of Tampa. Kotfila, a traffic crash investigator, had just left Tampa General Hospital, where he was working on an investigation, McKinnon said.

He was driving on the eastbound side of the highway, when the wrong-way driver struck his vehicle. Kotfila “was unable to avoid the crash and the vehicles struck head on,” McKinnon said.

Kotfila was rushed to Tampa General, where he died from his injuries. The other driver, identified as Erik Thomas McBeth, 31, of Hudson, Fla., died at the scene, McKinnon said.

The crash remains under investigation, he said.

Falmouth police and the State Police on Saturday expressed condolences to Kotfila’s family.

“It is with great sadness that the Massachusetts State Police today learned of the tragic death of Hillsborough County, Fla., Deputy Sheriff John R. Kotfila Jr.,” State Police Colonel Richard McKeon said in a statement issued Saturday.

Kotfila Sr., a veteran state trooper, is assigned to the Bourne barracks.

“Our prayers tonight are with him, his wife, and their two surviving children,” McKeon said. “We grieve the loss of a hero who was a member of our extended Massachusetts state family.”

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On its Facebook page, Falmouth police posted an image of the Hillsborough County sheriff’s badge covered with a black band, the traditional symbol of a law enforcement agency in mourning.

“Deputy John Kotfila Jr. comes from a family of honorable service,” the department wrote in a post. “Please join us in sending our thoughts and prayers to the Kotfila family, and to the men and women of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department.”

John Kotfila Jr. graduated with a degree in criminal justice from Westfield State University, his father said.

When he joined the Hillsborough Sheriff’s department, Kotfila became a third generation police officer.

“Me, both of my sons, my father, my father-in-law, we’re all in law enforcement,” the elder Kotfila said. “We deal with [tragedy] all the time. But when it hits home, it hits hard.”

Kotfila’s cruiser (above) was struck by a wrong-way driver, according to reports.
Kotfila’s cruiser (above) was struck by a wrong-way driver, according to reports.Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Department

Globe correspondents Reenat Sinay and Adam Sennott contributed to this report. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akoktsidis.