Megan Reeves Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Pasco County officials have released details and a dramatic video of a fiery weekend crash that killed a man suspected of kidnapping his longtime girlfriend.
The crash, which Sheriff Chris Nocco called the result of an “unfortunate cycle of domestic violence,” happened just before 10 p.m. Saturday off State Road 54 in Odessa. While fleeing deputies by driving the wrong way on the road, Michael A. Blomberg crashed head-on into a pickup truck and later died.
The ordeal — caught on video that was captured during the taping of the national television series Live PD — began when a local gas station clerk called the Sheriff’s Office to report that Blomberg, 54, of Land O’Lakes, had placed his girlfriend in a headlock while the couple was inside the store. Nocco did not provide the address of the gas station.
The woman mouthed the words “help me” to the clerk, Nocco said, and deputies arrived to the store to see Blomberg driving a Chrysler sedan out of the parking lot. They began to follow him westbound along State Road 54.
“Our deputies believed she was in that vehicle,” the sheriff said. “It just happened that she was still at the gas station.”
Eventually, Blomberg crossed over into the eastbound lanes, Nocco said, although the sheriff could not specify at which point. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash, Blomberg was under the influence of alcohol.
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Kirby N. Sober, was traveling eastbound on State Road 54. His Chevrolet pickup was struck head-on by Blomberg just west of Odessa Gardens Lane, troopers said.
The deputy body cam video released Monday shows Sober’s truck engulfed in flames, then deputies rushing to pull Blomberg from his smoke-filled vehicle before it also caught fire. For several minutes, the video shows deputies trying unsuccessfully to revive Blomberg, who later died after being taken to a nearby hospital.
Sober, who climbed out the passenger side of his pickup, was found lying on the ground nearby, Nocco said. He suffered serious injuries, and the sheriff did not provide an update on his condition Monday.
Records show Blomberg was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 6 for stalking. According to agency spokesman Kevin Doll, that case involved the same woman as Saturday’s incident at the gas station.
Blomberg was charged with witness tampering on Sept. 7, when he repeatedly tried to call the woman from jail, records show.
Nocco praised his deputies’ efforts and noted that victim advocates from the Sheriff’s Office are working with Blomberg’s girlfriend to connect her with any resources she needs.
The sheriff offered no further details but said he hopes the video will provide the public with an inside look at what deputies encounter.
“A lot of systems don’t get to see what we do,” he said. “If our citizens get to see what we do … that’s good. It humanizes us.”
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