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Wrong-way driver was in Tampa just 24 hours before deadly crash Tuesday

The crash happened in the early house of Tuesday morning on Interstate 275, police said. Both drivers, including a Tampa police officer, died.
Joshua Montague was killed along with a Tampa Police officer Tuesday after he was driving the wrong way and the two collided on Interstate 275. He was the father of Irys Montague, left, and partner of Sandra Bundy, right.
Joshua Montague was killed along with a Tampa Police officer Tuesday after he was driving the wrong way and the two collided on Interstate 275. He was the father of Irys Montague, left, and partner of Sandra Bundy, right. [ Sandra Bundy ]
Published Mar. 11
Updated Mar. 11

Sandra Bundy hasn’t stopped crying since Tuesday.

That’s when she received the news that her partner of six years, Joshua Montague, slammed into the marked SUV of Tampa Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen. Montague, 25, had been driving the wrong way on Interstate 275, police said. The crash killed both drivers.

Related: Wrong-way driver going 100 mph, likely intoxicated in crash that killed Tampa officer, chief says

Bundy is now caring for their three-year-old daughter on her own. Madsen, 45, was a husband and father of three.

A crumpled marked Tampa police vehicle sits at the scene of a wrong-way crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa on March 9, 2021. Officer Jesse Madsen, 45, was killed when his vehicle collided with another car heading south in the northbound lanes of the interstate between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Sligh Avenue, police said.
A crumpled marked Tampa police vehicle sits at the scene of a wrong-way crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa on March 9, 2021. Officer Jesse Madsen, 45, was killed when his vehicle collided with another car heading south in the northbound lanes of the interstate between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Sligh Avenue, police said. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]

“Everything about what happened was terrible,” Bundy said through tears. “People are talking about (Madsen) and they should, but Josh was a father, too. An amazing one.”

Montague’s death was the third in a string of tragedies for Bundy and her children, she said. First was the death of her eldest child’s father in 2017, followed by her own father’s death earlier this year.

Related: Tampa officer killed in wrong-way crash was ‘wired’ to save lives

Bundy doesn’t worry as much about herself as she does her kids, she said. Though Walker — her oldest child — wasn’t Montague’s son by blood, Bundy said he was like a father to him. She described Montague’s relationship with their daughter, Irys, as inseparable.

“She was his absolute best friend,” Bundy said.

Bundy said she understands why people are upset at Montague over the crash. But she also has a theory behind why her partner entered the highway going the wrong way: He just didn’t know the roads.

Montague had been in Tampa for less than 24 hours before the crash, Bundy said. He moved to the area from Colorado — where Bundy lives — to work for a local moving company with a friend. His goal was to earn enough money to eventually move the rest of his family to Tampa Bay, Bundy said.

“He didn’t mean to do it — he just got confused,” Bundy said. “He had too much to leave behind to do anything on purpose.”

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan detailed how the crash took place during a press conference Tuesday. He said police began to receive 911 calls shortly before 1 a.m. about a white sedan traveling south at a high rate of speed and swerving through the northbound lanes of the interstate between the Hillsborough Avenue and Sligh Avenue exits.

About a minute after the first call, another came in reporting that the car had collided with a marked patrol vehicle.

Related: Tampa Bay has a history of deadly wrong-way crashes

“This is a tragedy,” Dugan said. “Our community has been rocked by these wrong-way drivers.”

Police have not said if impairment played a factor in the crash.

Madsen was a U.S. Marine combat veteran who began working in law enforcement in Ohio, according to information provided by Tampa police. He had been with the Tampa Police Department for 14 years and was “highly decorated,” Dugan said, having won the department’s Life Saving Award seven times.

Tampa police Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen with his wife Danyelle are pictured in this family photo. Jesse Madsen, 45, was killed on March 9, 2021 in a crash with a wrong-way driver on Interstate 275 in Tampa.
Tampa police Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen with his wife Danyelle are pictured in this family photo. Jesse Madsen, 45, was killed on March 9, 2021 in a crash with a wrong-way driver on Interstate 275 in Tampa. [ Courtesy Tampa Police Benevolent Association ]

Madsen and his wife Danyelle have two sons, ages 12 and 16, and a 10-year-old daughter.

Bundy said she plans to focus on being the best mother she can to their daughter now.

“She just keeps saying she wants her dad,” Bundy said. “I don’t even know what to tell her.”