By LUISA YANEZ AND NIALA BOODHOO
The Florida Highway Patrol early Sunday identified Patrick Ambroise, 35, as the trooper who was killed Saturday night when his parked cruiser was struck from behind in Florida’s Turnpike and burst into flames, trapping him inside.
Ambroise, a four-year veteran, died at the scene of the crash near the Okeechobee Road toll plaza. He is survived by his wife, Roberta, and his two daughters, 5 and three months.
The driver of the black Lexus that struck Ambroise has been identified as Jonathan Robert Garcia, 19, of Miramar. Garcia was flown to Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center with serious injuries. He is in stable condition.
“When rescue units arrived, the cruiser was still engulfed in flames,” said FHP Sgt. Mark Wysocky late Saturday night.
Wysocky said minutes before the 8:30 p.m. crash the trooper was sitting inside his 2006 Crown Victoria facing north when the Lexus veered from the northbound travel lane onto the shoulder and slammed into the rear of the parked patrol car, causing it to burst into flames, trapping the trooper inside.
“We’re not sure if the trooper was doing paperwork on the side of the road; that’s now part of the investigation,” Wysocky said.
No charges had been filed.
The accident prompted the closing of all northbound traffic in that section of the turnpike. Traffic is expected to be rerouted into Sunday.
The smoldering FHP cruiser was still on the scene late Saturday night, Wysocky said.
This is the first death of Florida trooper in more than three years. In January 2007, FHP Sgt. Nicholas Sottile was shot to death by a suspect following a traffic stop in Highlands County.
Ambroise began his career with FHP as a graduate of the 111th recruit class in Tallahassee in January 2006. He was assigned to Troop K in Miami upon graduation where he has been serving since.
His childhood minister, Pastor Michel Porcena, said Sunday Ambroise was active at Eden Seventh Day Adventist Church in Little Haiti, where he sang with a gospel group, Esperanza, and worked as an elder to the youth.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Porcena, who married Ambroise to his wife, Roberta, six years ago. “He took things seriously – whether his work, church or family life. He was someone you could rely upon.”
Ambroise was born in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Porcena said, but grew up here in Miami. In addition to his wife and two daughters, he is survived by his mother, two brothers and three sisters.
Florida’s 2002 Move-Over Law requires motorists to slow down or be a lane away from police, ambulances and tow truck drivers on the shoulder or side of the road.
Between 2000 and 2008, 144 police officers nationwide have been killed because they were struck by vehicles, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Most states have laws that require drivers to give emergency vehicles a wide berth.
Last December, a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy was injured on the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Oakland Park Boulevard after he sat inside his car, parked to the left of the HOV lanes writing a ticket.