By Daniel Monteverde
New Orleans Times-Picayune
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North Shore, La. — A St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office deputy was killed Saturday morning and another deputy was injured when their car ran off the road while they were responding to a false report of a body on another parish highway.
About two hours after they began their shifts, deputies Hilery A. Mayo Jr. and Mark Bott responded to a call about a body on Louisiana 21 north of Abita Springs. But as Mayo and Bott, who was training under Mayo, were heading east on Louisiana 40 about 8 a.m., Mayo lost control of his 2006 Ford Crown Victoria cruiser near North Factory Road, east of Folsom.
The car swerved off the left side of the road and landed in a ditch, its passenger side striking a tree.
St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said news of the accident went out over the officers' radio "in a matter of seconds," but a deputy who responded to the scene was not able to save Mayo.
The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office pronounced Mayo, 32, of Covington, dead at the scene, state trooper Louis Calato said. An autopsy will be performed Monday.
Medics airlifted Bott, 41, of Franklinton, to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his foot Saturday afternoon, Strain said. He will undergo surgery on his shoulder today, Strain said.
Both deputies were wearing seat belts, Calato said. The vehicle had air bags, Strain said, but Mayo's seat belt broke.
Mayo, who joined the department at age 22, was an "extreme professional," Strain said.
He was "someone everyone wanted to be around," he said. "In a department with more than 600 employees, if he walked into a room, you knew it. He had a very happy personality. He lived to do the job."
Bott had been on the job for about three months, Strain said. His injuries were not life-threatening, but "obviously he'll be laid up for some time," he said.
Neither deputy's family could be reached for comment.
Strain said the call about the body in the road was unsupported and the Sheriff's Office found nothing.
Apparently, Strain said, the caller saw what looked like a body, but the Sheriff's Office will investigate whether the call was a prank or simply a mistake. The caller's identity is not known, he said.
Although neither Strain nor Calato knew how fast the deputies' car was traveling -- that will be determined by a State Police investigation -- Strain said Louisiana 21 is a heavily traveled road and anyone lying on it would be in grave danger. That fact would have made the deputies want to get to the scene as quickly as possible, he said.
Strain said Mayo was an excellent driver, and he blamed the accident on the parish's highway system. "Every state highway in Tammany is deemed substandard by the state's own description," he said. "One of my deputies has suffered from a substandard highway, as so many families have week after week in this parish."
Mayo, the first St. Tammany deputy to die in the line of duty since 1979, is survived by his wife, his mother, a sister and a brother. His brother, Jeff Mayo, is also a Sheriff's Office deputy.
"This is a very sad day for our office," Strain said. "He loved to serve the residents of St. Tammany Parish."
Copyright 2007 New Orleans Times-Picayune
La. deputy dies in car wreck responding to false 911 call