Florida officers assisting in Irma efforts die in head-on crash, deputies say

Gov. Scott releases statement after fatal crash

(Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office)

HARDEE COUNTY, Fla. – A Hardee County deputy and a state Department of Corrections employee were killed early Sunday when they hit each other head-on in a Hardee County crash, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Sgt. Joseph Ossman, 53, who worked at the Hardee County Correctional Institute, was on his way to work around 6:35 a.m. when he approached Crewsville Road while driving westbound on State Road 66, troopers said.

Julie Ann Bridges, a 42-year-old Hardee County deputy who was on duty, was driving her marked patrol car eastbound on her way home when the front of her car collided with Ossman's vehicle, the Highway Patrol said.

Troopers said Ossman's vehicle ended up on the north grassy shoulder after the crash. Bridges' car flipped and ended up in the intersection, the FHP said.

Ossman and Bridges were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the crash report.

The Highway Patrol released the following statement after the deadly crash:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hardee County Sheriff’s Department, the Florida Department of Corrections and their families!"

Gov. Rick Scott also expressed his condolences.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the loss of these the two individuals in a traffic accident today. 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," Scott said. "My heart goes out their families and the entire law enforcement and correctional community.”

Scott said the cause of the crash is still unknown and the FHP will release more information as it becomes available.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office shared pictures of the officers on its Facebook page Sunday night, saying the crash took place in an evacuation zone after the officers were required to stay in the county despite mandatory evacuations ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Bridges had been picking up supplies for a shelter just before the crash, deputies said. Ossman was on his way to work, which was still open despite the evacuation, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Ossman had worked for the Florida Department of Corrections for 21 years, deputies said.

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