LAND O'LAKES — A 20-year veteran Tampa police officer and father of six died in a motorcycle crash Thursday after a Pasco County government truck turned into his path.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Larry Coggins called the accident "a horrible case of a violation of right of way," and said charges are pending against the truck's driver.
About 12:50 p.m., Master Patrol Officer Victor Guerrero, 47, was off duty and riding south on his 2008 Harley-Davidson motorcycle down U.S. 41 about a 11/2 miles north of State Road 52.
A county-owned Ford F-150 pickup heading north made a left turn in front of the Harley, Coggins said. Guerrero hit the right side and the impact hurled him across the northbound lane and onto the east shoulder of the road.
Guerrero was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival, Tampa police Chief Steve Hogue said at an afternoon news conference outside the Tampa hospital.
Guerrero was not wearing a helmet. Tampa police policy doesn't require off-duty officers to wear one while riding a motorcycle, spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.
The veteran officer patrolled the streets of Ybor City, working in Tampa's District 3 office on North 22nd Street. His last shift was on Monday, and he was scheduled to go back to work on Sunday. This August would have marked Guerrero's 21st year with the department.
"This is a sad day in the Tampa Police Department," Hogue said.
Born in Cuba, Guerrero made his home in Brooksville. He lived in a comfortable house on 5 acres next to the Suncoast Parkway in a rural area populated with horse and cattle farms.
Guerrero had three children and three stepchildren. He and wife Lara Adonica Heinsen would have celebrated their second wedding anniversary on May 19, and his 48th birthday a week after that.
Mayor Pam Iorio called Guerrero a loving father and husband, a man who was well regarded by everyone, a police officer who performed his duties with dignity and pride.
Details about the truck driver were sparse late Thursday and no one answered the phone at his Hudson home.
Daniel Whipple, 53, was on duty when the accident occurred. The truck was impounded at the scene, and Whipple submitted to a drug test, said Michele Baker, Pasco's chief assistant county administrator.
"We're obviously very sorry, and our condolences go out to the officer's family," Baker said. "But at this point, we have to wait for the results of FHP's investigation."
Motorcycle debris from the accident hit a third vehicle, a Ford van driven by Bruce Brick, 55, who had been heading north on U.S. 41 behind the Pasco County truck.
"I saw the motorcyclist coming and I saw the truck turn," said Brick, who works for a Tampa refrigerator service company and was en route to a call. "And then I stopped. I was kind of in shock."
Late Thursday, he was at his Brandon home watching a movie and trying to push the accident out of his mind.
"Hopefully I can sleep. It's the first time I've even seen a fatality firsthand like this."
Times researcher John Martin and staff writers Chuin-Wei Yap, Erin Sullivan and Logan Neill contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 269-5303.