ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida wildlife officer killed in awrong-way crash in St. Lucie County on Thursday has been identified.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday morning tweeted his condolences to the family of fallen Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission senior investigator Kyle Patterson.
DeSantis said Patterson "will be remembered for his dedication to conservation and protecting our communities."
.@FLCaseyDeSantis and I will be praying for the family of fallen FWC Senior Investigator Kyle Patterson, who will be remembered for his dedication to conservation and protecting our communities. https://t.co/7wvjegUlqO— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 10, 2022
Earlier on Friday, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles identified the deceased officer as Patterson, posting on Facebook that "Our hearts are with the MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife family and loved ones of fallen FWC Senior Investigator Kyle Patterson as they mourn this tragic loss. Thank you for your service."
The Florida Highway Patrol said a 24-year-old woman from Tampa was driving a Kia sedan the wrong way — eastbound in the westbound lanes of Okeechobee Road — and collided head-on with an unmarked FWC vehicle, a Ford pickup truck, around 12 p.m. Thursday.
Patterson, 35, who was on duty and driving the FWC vehicle, was flown to a hospital and pronounced dead. Officials said Patterson is survived by his wife, Alisha, and two young children, Kole and Kinsley.
The driver of the Kia also died in the wreck.
WATCH: WPTV's report on deadly wrong-way crash:
The FWC released a statement Friday, saying the agency has "suffered a tremendous loss."
Patterson started with FWC in 2007 and received numerous awards throughout his career, including a Lifesaving Award in 2010, an Exceptional Performance Award in 2015, a Letter of Commendation in 2017, along with recognition for his performance during FWC’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Michael.
"Every day, law enforcement officers put themselves in danger pursuing their calling to keep the public safe," the FWC said in a statement Friday. "Florida has lost a hero for public safety and conservation. We ask everyone for their support and prayers for his family, friends and all of our FWC officers and staff who are incredibly saddened by his death."
At a news conference Thursday, FWC Major Justin Bonds called Patterson a "true hero" who "has done a lot for the agency, for the citizens of the state of Florida."
Outside the Martin County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, the American flag was lowered to half staff and deputies covered their badges with a black ribbon as they mourned the death of Patterson.
"It's a punch to the gut to every officer," said Capt. Josh Kloster with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
Kloster is a former FWC officer and recently worked with Patterson on the case of a deadly boating crash.
"He was the type of officer that was enjoyable to be around. He had a great personality," Kloster said.
At the scene of the deadly head-on wreck on Okeechobee Road, only small bits of debris serve as a reminder of the tragedy
Less than a mile to the west, two memorials stand where teens Britney Lee Poindexter and Santia Fekita died in 2018 when a 99-year-old wrong-way driver crashed into their pickup truck.
"My heart goes out to Kyle’s family. It goes out to our community. It goes out to all of us together as a community to band together to stand behind his family," said Yvonne Poindexter, Britney's mother.
In 2018, Patterson was honored with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Award for protecting sea turtle nests on Hutchinson Island.
"He carried his position with the utmost respect," Kloster said.
Kloster said Patterson’s death hit home with every law enforcement officer on the Treasure Coast.
"This is just a reminder of the reality of the job that we do, that on any day, you never know what could happen," Kloster said.
The crash remains under investigation.