Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida

Citrus County Sheriff strikes, kills pedestrian in Hernando County

A friend identified the victim as a tree service foreman who lived near the scene of the collision.
Citrus Sheriff Mike Prendergast. [Citrus County Sheriff's Office] [Citrus County Sheriff's Office]
Published Aug. 22
Updated Aug. 23

Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast struck and killed a man walking on U.S. 19 just north of Weeki Wachee on Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

An investigation is underway and no charges have been filed, the Highway Patrol said.

Prendergast, 62, of Inverness, was driving north in his unmarked Sheriff’s Office Chevy Tahoe when he struck a man who was walking in or across the outside lane of the highway, the Highway Patrol said.

The pedestrian, 59-year-old Ronnie Anthony Heath of Hernando County, died at the scene.

The collision occurred on U.S. 19 in Hernando County near Woodland Water Boulevard.

Ronnie Anthony Heath of Citrus County, who enjoyed fishing with his employer and friend Gary McQuiston, was killed when he was struck while walking across U.S. 19 by the Citrus County Sheriff. [Courtesy]

Prendergast cooperated fully with Highway Patrol investigation and submitted to all requested testing, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release, including a blood draw. Preliminary information indicates Prendergast had not been drinking.

Heath lived just a block away from the crash scene, said Gary McQuiston, his employer and friend as owner of Big Bear Tree Service. Heath may have been heading home from visiting friends nearby when he was hit.

McQuiston described Heath as hardworking, outgoing and a friend of his for more than a decade. When they met, he said, Heath was homeless and living in the woods. They’d worked together ever since, fishing together in their downtime.

Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Michael, the two men traveled to the Panhandle to help remove trees from roads and houses.

“He changed his whole life around,” McQuiston said.

At the time of the crash, Prendergast was returning home from a board meeting with the nonprofit Sheriffs Ranches Enterprises, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Prendergast, a Tampa native who graduated from high school in Clearwater, spent 31 years as a military police officer including a stint at MacDill Air Force Base.

He also served as then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff from his 2011 inauguration until the legislative session later that year, when Scott appointed him executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

He has been sheriff since 2016.

In its news release, the Sheriff’s Office said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the pedestrian during this difficult time."

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong location for the collision and the victim’s residence.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Former Tarpon Springs police Officer Steven Bergren, seen in this 2012 picture with his K-9 partner Dobies Jr. Bergren resigned before he could be fired by the Tarpon Springs Police Department for threatening a mass shooting. Bergren said he was joking. Tampa Bay Times
    The detective said he was joking. The Tarpon Springs Police Department said it would have fired him had he not resigned.
  2. A student holds a sign while participating in a "Global Climate Strike" at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of young people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit. KHADEJEH NIKOUYEH/NEWS & RECORD  |  AP
    With a coastline stretching 1,350 miles, Florida faces some of the gravest risks from rising ocean levels.
  3. Nurse Jeanine Huici carries a sign during a one-day strike outside of Palmetto General Hospital, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Hialeah, Fla. Registered nurses staged a one-day strike against Tenet Health hospitals in Florida, California and Arizona on Friday, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    About 30 nurses picketed outside Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, Florida, during intermittent rain Friday.
  4. Lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic on Tuesday in Daytona Beach. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, inset, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida had talked about demons before leaving the house, according to a sister who worriedly called police, officials said during a news conference Wednesday.
    Volusia County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano on Thursday allowed 38-year-old Ebony Wilkerson to leave Daytona Beach.
  5. Commander John Christensen of the cutter Seneca says the “downrange counter-drug operations are a vital component to the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security’s mission and our national security.” Photo from video/WPLG Local 10
    The crews patrolling in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South American made dozens of interdictions.
  6. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
  7. The view of downtown St. Petersburg from the balcony of 180 Beach Drive, unit 1602. Tony Sica
    It’s the second home on Mandalay Point to sell in two months.
  8. Maria Otilia Rivera faces up to 35 years in prison when she's sentenced Oct. 16. Hendry County Sheriff's Office
    An investigation that began in 2017 found that Rivera sold drugs to two girls, ages 12 and 14.
  9. Police investigators say they believe the man has a history of mental of illness. Photo from video/10News WTSP
    Firefighters initially tried to climb after him, but the man just climbed higher.
  10. Statements made online that threaten physical harm, whether seriously intended or not, can have devastating consequences. The “It’s No Joke” awareness campaign seeks to educate youth and parents that even threats made online. Florida Department of Juvenile Justice/Facebook
    The arrests came after other students told deputies they’d been told they were on a “safe” list.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement