Heroic Florida officer becomes "human shield" to save couple

- A Florida officer gave his life Saturday morning to save a two people in a car accident that left the community heartbroken.

Sarah Geren got onto a Tampa expressway around 3 a.m., around the same time as  Deputy John Kotfila of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department. She was driving ahead of him when she saw headlights heading toward her.

"I realized that the car was coming at me and coming faster and faster,” Geren said.

Another car was going the wrong way, barrelling toward her. She said she flashed her lights over and over again.

"The moment that I started to pull over, (Kotfila) raced around me and I think he literally made a split second decision and said, 'I'm going to try to stop this car from being in the accident,’” Geren said.

Geren and her father believe the deputy purposefully put his cruiser between her car and the wrong-way driver, saving the lives of her and her boyfriend, who was also in the vehicle.

"This man put himself in front of us as a human shield. Absolutely,” she said.

Jim Karom, Geren’s father, said it was no mistake the officer drove in front of his daughter’s car.

“He did everything he did intentionally, and he saved my daughter and her boyfriend and I thank him,” Karom said.

Kotfila’s fellow deputies are heartbroken by the loss.

"We're all going to miss him and we loved him,” said HCSO Sgt. Eric Powell.

HCSO Detective Danielle Spencer agreed, saying Kotfila was a great person.

"The thing I'm going to miss most is his smile,” she said.

Co-workers agreed that that’s why they weren’t surprised by Kotfila’s sacrifice.

"There was nothing about him that you disliked. He was there for you when you need him,” said HCSO Dep. Cale Parsons.

And Kotfila was there, willing to give his life, until his last breath.

"He didn't know me and he sacrificed himself for me,” Geren said. “There's nothing more that you can ask of someone."

The wrong-way driver, Erik McBeth, also died in the crash. Investigators are determining if alcohol was involved.

Kotfila’s funeral will be held Friday.

"I was a random person on a random road, at a random time, I didn't know him and I love him,” Geren said.

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