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27-year-old woman killed in deputy-involved crash in Port St. Lucie

Sheriff Ken Mascara offers 'deepest sympathies' to pedestrian's loved ones
An image from WPTV Chopper 5 of a law enforcement investigation on U.S. 1 and Southeast Crosstown Parkway in Port St. Lucie on May 5, 2023.jpg
Posted at 9:33 AM, May 05, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A St. Lucie County deputy was involved in a fatal crash early Friday morning in Port St. Lucie that claimed the life of a 27-year-old woman, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Investigators said an on-duty deputy was responding to a service call at 1:16 a.m. when the crash happened at U.S. Highway 1 and Crosstown Parkway.

A 26-year-old deputy was heading north on U.S. Highway 1 in the center lane, entering the intersection of Crosstown Parkway, according to FHP spokeswoman Lt. Indiana Miranda.

The 27-year-old woman entered the north side crosswalk of the intersection, walking from west to east and into the path of the deputy's vehicle.

After the pedestrian was hit, she was thrown in a northwesterly direction, coming to final rest in the median of U.S. Highway 1.

Surveillance video given to WPTV by nearby businesses showed a person who appeared to be the pedestrian walking alongside U.S. Highway one towards the Crosstown Parkway intersection just after 1 a.m.

A few minutes later, the video shows a St Lucie County Sheriff Deputy Patrol come to a stop in the middle of the highway. A deputy then gets out and walks back toward the intersection. Shortly after, several patrol cars and an ambulance arrive.

The woman, whose name was not released by law enforcement, was pronounced dead at the scene by fire rescue personnel.

Her uncle told WPTV's Kate Hussey the victim's name is Kaitlyn Kohler, and that she was 28 years old.

Her family said they are devastated, and added she was a great person who was loved by all.

"We are heartbroken to learn of this tragic accident and extend our deepest sympathies to the pedestrian’s loved ones," St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a written statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are also with our deputy during this extremely difficult time."

Ralph Corvino owns a CBD store right across from where it happened and said he was stuck in traffic for hours that morning.

"I actually didn’t find out about it until I had gotten out of the traffic," Corvino said. "At first, I thought it was just the normal construction slowing it down, but when I found that out, it's saddening, you know, it's a resident."

It's saddening for Philip Mendel too, a retired police officer and secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police, Fort Pierce Lodge.

"I was a police officer in South Jersey for about 16 years, I specialized in traffic," Mendel said. "I can only speak from prior experience that driving at night, calls for emergencies, at least the overhead lights would be activated so oncoming or cross traffic would observe someone coming."

Mendel said he's conflicted by the incident, being a former officer himself.

"Yes, because as cautious as you are in doing your job, sometimes you have absolutely no control over what things could happen," Mendel said. "Unfortunately, whatever happened last night I'm sure will be investigated."

Corvino agreed. Both men said they hope that whatever the next steps forward are in the investigation that everyone involved receives closure.

"If you're not there, how do you place blame on it?" asked Corvino.

The deputy has been placed on administrative leave while the Florida Highway Patrol investigates the crash.