Fla. detention deputy killed in head-on collision got in law enforcement 'to help people'
Those who knew the officer said he offered an “intoxicating smile” to everyone he met and never hesitated to lend a helping hand
Lisa Maria Garza
TAVARES, Fla. — Lake County detention deputy Herbert “Bert” Cole was on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a school resource deputy when he was killed last weekend in a head-on collision while heading home from an overnight shift.
The loss was especially painful for the Sheriff’s Office because Cole, 40, of Umatilla was set to start a new chapter of his law-enforcement career Monday and begin field training as a patrol deputy — a path that would eventually lead to him protecting children on a school campus. Those who knew Cole said he offered an “intoxicating smile” to everyone he met and never hesitated to lend a helping hand.
“He personified what we in law enforcement get in this line to do — to help people,” said Lake County sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Jones, who knew Cole for nearly 20 years.
Cole began working for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 2016 after serving several years as a correctional officer at the Lake Correctional Institution, a state prison in Clermont.
“Even the inmates had respect for him because he was firm when he did his job but he was fair,” said Jones, an agency spokesman who occasionally visited him on duty. “That’s just who he was.”
Last Saturday, Cole was driving north on County Road 439 about 6:45 a.m. when a 1994 GMC pickup truck going south veered into his lane at Mill Creek Road and collided head-on with his 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Cole died at the scene and the truck driver, Tyler Cassell, 18, of Tavares was seriously injured and was taken to Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, according to a report. The crash remains under investigation but charges are pending against Cassell, FHP spokeswoman Lt. Kim Montes said Thursday.
Troopers are waiting for Cassell’s blood test results to determine if alcohol was a factor in the deadly crash, Montes said.
Meanwhile, Cole’s family and fellow deputies are gathering this weekend to honor the man with a “kind, gentle soul.”
“Life won’t be the same without him and I don’t even have the words to describe this,” a relative wrote on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “Our family is heartbroken.”
©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)