Crime & Courts
Civilian Polk sheriff's employee dies in traffic crash
The Polk County Sheriff's Office is mourning one of its own after a civilian member employee was killed this morning in a traffic crash. Victor Lopez, 62, of Haines City was hired in November 2000 as a detention support specialist, working in the South County Jail in Frostproof, the department said. "We are saddened today by the loss of our valued PCSO agency member," Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release. "We consider ourselves a family here at PCSO, and Victor's loss is felt throughout the agency. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Victor's family during this tragic time.""Victor took his job at the Sheriff's Office very seriously, and he came to work every day with this huge smile on his face," said Capt. James Hogan, commander of the South County Jail. "Whenever you spoke to him his face would always light up. His coworkers who counted on him for their safety knew he always had their back." About 6:20 a.m., Lopez was on his way home from work, heading northbound on U.S. 27 just south of CR 640 in Lake Wales in his 1998 Kia, when he apparently lost control of his vehicle, deputies said. The Kia went into the median, striking a grey 2012 Nissan Rogue being driven by Martha Ritch, 59, of Lake Wales, who was about to turn onto southbound U.S. 27. The collision pushed the Nissan out into the southbound lane, where it was hit by a southbound 2003 Toyota driven by Cheryl Greives, 40, of Winter Haven. Lopez's Kia came to rest in the median, He was declared dead at the scene. The two other drivers were both taken to Lake Wales Hospital, where they were treated and released. Lopez is survived by a sister and four children – a daughter in Brandon, and twin daughters and a son in Puerto Rico. He was preceded in death by his wife. Polk County traffic deputies are seeking witnesses to this crash. Anyone with information should contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at (863) 298-6200.