RUSKIN — An impaired driver barreled into a construction zone on Interstate 75 early Friday, fatally struck a construction worker and then kept driving, troopers said.
When the driver, 29-year-old Michael Jerome Forbes, Jr. of Seffner, finally stopped about a quarter mile up the interstate, he asked another construction worker for a ride and then ran away when the worker refused, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Forbes was located soon after and arrested on multiple charges.
The crash happened about 4 a.m. as Forbes was driving north on I-75 in a 2010 Ford Fusion. A road crew had closed the inside and middle lanes near mile marker 236, blocking them with cones, and left the outside lane open to traffic, the report says. The construction zone was also marked with warning signage.
Forbes drove into the closed lanes and struck a 45-year-old man who was working between the inside and center lanes, the report says. The worker was wearing a reflective shirt and an orange hardhat equipped with a light. He died at the scene.
Forbes continued driving north for about a quarter mile, then stopped and got out of his car. Another construction worker at the scene, fearing Forbes would try to drive away, positioned his construction vehicle in front of the Ford, according to the report.
That worker told investigators later that Forbes approached his construction vehicle and asked for a ride to Brandon. When the worker told Forbes he needed to remain at the scene, he ran into a wooded area in the center median. A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and K-9 deputy found Forbes hiding in the woods and he was arrested just before 5 a.m.
Forbes showed signs of impairment, had the odor of alcohol on his breath and performed poorly on field sobriety exercises, the report says. He consented to give breath samples and a breath analyzer device estimated his blood alcohol level was .150 and .151 at 6:50 a.m., nearly three hours after the crash. Florida law presumes a driver is impaired with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or greater.
Forbes was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash involving death. He was being held without bail Friday.
Troopers said the worker was employed by McShea Contracting. The Highway Patrol no longer releases the names of crash victims due to the agency’s interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment designed to protect crime victims but deprives the public of information that had long been available under public records law.
According to its website, McShea Contracting is a pavement marking company based in Lehigh Acres. A person who answered the phone there Friday morning said company officials were not commenting.
Records show Forbes served two stints in state prison between 2013 and 2016 for burglary and grand theft in Manatee County.