‘I’m thankful it was me:’ Heroic veteran trooper stops wrong-way driver with her own vehicle

Wrong-way driver hit trooper’s vehicle almost head-on, officials say

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Highway Patrol trooper Toni Schuck’s job was to make sure no one got on to the Skyway Bridge during the Skyway 10K on Sunday as thousands of runners raced across it.

Schuck said she was positioned about half a mile from the starting point when she got a notification on her radio that a car had been driven through the first barricade.

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“It’s hard because I’ve done this for 26 years and I’ve never been in this position,” Schuck said. “In a position where I had to put myself for somebody else.”

There was no hesitation from this hero.

Behind the wheel of the car was Kristen Watts, an allegedly drunken driver who passed several troopers at over 65 mph on the way to the bridge, which was closed for runners competing in the race, troopers said.

“I knew there were people there. I didn’t know where they were,” Schuck said.

Schuck said the one thing she did know was that the car had passed other troopers and she was the only one left who could potentially save thousands of people.

“I knew I was the last one. I knew there was no one else behind me,” according to Schuck.

At that point, Trooper Schuck said she drove her car in the middle of the road with her lights on hoping the driver would see the truck and stop. Instead, Schuck says the car hit her patrol vehicle nearly head-on.

“I’m thankful it was me, I’m thankful she didn’t get past me,” Schuck said.

“Thankful” doesn’t even do justice for the runners who were on the bridge at that time, like James Judge.

Judge said to Schuck, “Heroic in every aspect of the word.”

Schuck never imagined she would be in this position, but thinking back on her over two decades as a trooper, she recalled why she took the job.

“You think you’re going to save the world, you’re going to make all the wrong things right,” Schuck said.

On Sunday, Schuck did just that.

About the Authors:

Stacy is a Social Media Producer for ClickOrlando.com and has been with News 6 since 2018. She graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in advertising and a Masters in social media/mass communications.