A Florida man died after striking an 11-foot alligator while driving on a road in the middle of the night, authorities said.
The man identified as John Hopkins was traveling east on Country Road 72 in Lithia, Florida when he hit the alligator just after midnight on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said Hopkins’ vehicle drifted off the road and overturned into a ditch. Another driver passing by saw the 59-year-old’s car and notified police.
“Detectives responded to the crash and Hopkins was pronounced deceased at the scene,” the sheriff’s office said. “The alligator was also deceased.” An investigation into the crash is underway.
“It’s bizarre that [it was] an 11-foot alligator, [which] is a big alligator, to begin with, but then to just total the car…he hit an alligator and flipped the car and he died instantly is what we were told,” Jane Pyzynski., Hopkins sister, told local news. “He was the apple in my mother’s eye, so to speak. He’ll be missed by the whole family.”
It is not yet clear where the alligator emerged from but the Miami Herald reported that the crash happened about 2 miles from Alafia River State Park where the reptiles live.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the state is the home of about 1.3 million alligators.