Family and friends of a Hernando County deputy who was killed during a chase want the section of road where he died named after him.
Deputy John Mecklenburg died on July 3rd. A close look at the crash scene revels some grim reminders of the horrible crash. Pieces of an engine block are still resting next to a tree; part of a bumper is buried in the grass.
People who drive south on U.S. 41 near the Pasco-Hernando County line may miss the American flags. The big gash in a tree is beginning to fade. A large hole in a fence now appears as though it’s been that way all along.
Friends and family say Deputy Mecklenburg deserves much more.
“We are pushing to have U.S. 41 designated as the John C. Mecklenburg Memorial Highway,” said Hernando Sheriff’s Corporal Wendy McGinnis.
Mecklenburg was trying to stop a car being driven by Michael James Anthony. He was spotted by Brooksville police driving the wrong way on U.S. 41 before dawn July 3rd.
Investigators say Anthony refused to stop. Mecklenburg and another deputy picked up the chase as it made its way south toward Pasco County. During the chase Mecklenburg lost control of his and slammed into a tree. He died a few hours later.
“There was a deputy who was a hero, who gave his life protecting the citizens of Hernando,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.
Renaming the highway in Mecklenburg’s honor may remind drivers of the risks deputies take, often when most people aren’t paying attention.
“There are those men and women out there that are willing to do that for them, even in the early morning hours of Sunday morning, when someone crazy is on the road trying to run innocent people off the road,” Nienhuis said.
The plan is for 16.1 miles of the road to be re-named. It’s part of the route Anthony is accused of taking before being arrested in Pinellas County several hours after the crash.
“I think seeing that sign that says ‘Deputy John C. Mecklenburg Memorial Highway’ will always be the reminder that that was one great legacy,” McGinnis said.
The Hernando County Commission has already agreed to rename the road. Next week, Pasco County Commissioners will also consider the idea.
The accident actually happened just across the county line in Pasco County. State Senator Mike Fasano and Representative Richard Corcoran have also agreed to push the renaming during the legislative session.