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Gateway Expressway project halted following deputy's death on I-275

The roadway project is expected to be completed by 2023, according to FDOT.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The death of Pinellas County Deputy Michael Hartwick has put a pause on the construction project along Interstate 275, the company performing the work said in a statement on Friday.

Work on I-275 in Pinellas County is part of the Gateway Expressway project that plans to add two new two-lane elevated tolled roadways that will provide access between U.S. 19 and I-275, and the Bayside Bridge and I-275.

Hartwick was killed while providing assistance and safety to the construction crew along I-275 near Exit 30, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. Authorities said it wasn't long after he reported to the site, when he was killed in a hit-and-run crash by a construction driver on a large front loader.

Archer Western - de Moya Joint Venture II, which goes by Joint Venture, said it's fully cooperating with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office while also extending its "deepest sympathy" to the family and friends of Hartwick.

"Work has been halted on the project site while the Joint Venture continues its investigation into the circumstances and details of this tragic incident," the company added.

RELATED: Second man arrested in connection to death of Pinellas County deputy

Archer Western, based out of Georgia, is a subsidiary of the Walsh Group and has a Tampa office. 10 Investigates looked into the company's history and found four on-the-job deaths in Florida since 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports. Most recently, a worker died when a section of concrete fell onto them in Clearwater in October 2021.

Florida Department of Transportation released a statement following the death of Hartwick and arrests of two of the construction workers.

"The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) offers our heartfelt condolences to Deputy Hartwick’s family and the entire law enforcement community. From all accounts, Deputy Hartwick was a model law enforcement officer, and we stand willing and able to assist the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in any way possible.

"FDOT and its contractors follow strict hiring procedures. While it appears that these hiring procedures were followed, including a federal E-Verify clearance check, and the individuals in question passed this federal clearance, the Department is initiating an internal review on this project contract. FDOT will also continue to support law enforcement efforts as investigations continue."

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrested 32-year-old Juan Ariel Molina-Salles. He is the accused of construction worker in the investigation and is charged with one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office reports. 

Since Molina's arrest, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Molina initially gave authorities a false name and it's reported that Molina came into the U.S. illegally from Mexico back in October 2021. The sheriff's office said Molina has been in the Tampa Bay area since March 2022.

A second man, Elieser Aurelio Gomez-Zelaya, 31, of Tampa, was arrested and charged with accessory after the fact, the sheriff's office reports.

RELATED: Man suspected of killing Pinellas County deputy in hit-and-run crash taken into custody, deputies say

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