Hero Down: Lt. Steven Whitstine Died Of Heart Failure Before On-Duty Crash
Zachary, LA – East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (EBRPSO) Lieutenant Steven Whitstine died in the line of duty on Thursday, when he suffered a medical emergency and veered his car off the roadway.
Lt. Whitstine, 42, was traveling on Port Hudson-Pride Road, on his way to the EBRPSO, when the fatal collision occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m., East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux told KATC.
The lieutenant’s vehicle left the roadway, then collided with a tree and a bridge before it overturned into a canal.
The 17-year law enforcement veteran was pronounced dead at the scene.
An autopsy revealed that Lt. Whitstine had an enlarged heart, and died of “congestive heart failure,” East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. William “Beau” Clark said on Friday, according to WVLA.
Lt. Whitstine’s partner, K9 Sixx, was also in the vehicle at the time of the collision, KATC reported.
K9 Sixx suffered minor injuries, and was taken to a local veterinarian for treatment, according to The Advocate.
He is expected to make a full recovery.
“My heart breaks for his wife Deputy Elisha Whitstine, their children, his coworkers, and all of those that loved him,” Sheriff Gautreaux said in a Facebook post. “Please remember his family in your prayers.”
Lt. Whitstine’s law enforcement career began at the Louisiana Department of Corrections, where he worked in the K9 training program at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, The Advocate reported.
He went on to serve the Baker Police Department for nine years, prior to joining the EBRPSO eight years ago at Sheriff Gautreaux’s request.
Lt. Whitstine was an integral part of the expansion of the department’s K9 program, the sheriff said.
He and his longtime colleague, Captain James Broussard, grew the agency’s K9 force from two dogs to 13 during their service together.
“It's not easy to lose a deputy under any circumstances," sheriff Gautreaux added. "He was a fine young man…We have to go on, but he will be missed."
Capt. Broussard said that Lt. Whitstine was passionate about K9s, and that he had just selected K9 Sixx as his new partner a few weeks before the crash.
"He was without a dog for over a year and that weighed heavily on him," the captain explained. "Dogs were his passion…He was so excited to be working with this new one."
Those he worked with said that Lt. Whitstine was “laid back and easygoing,” and described him as “a big teddy bear,” The Advocate reported.
"And if there was a karaoke machine anywhere around, he was gonna get up there," Sheriff Gautreaux recalled fondly. "He really prided himself on his Elvis impersonation…But he was a better singer than he was an impersonator."
Lt. Whitstine’s body was escorted from the scene of the collision to the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office by dozens of law enforcement officers on Thursday.
He leaves behind his wife, EBRPSO Deputy Elisha Whitstine, as well as their two adult children.
The couple just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on May 14, WAFB reported.
“He was a dedicated public servant, [a] good father, good husband, and he’s gonna be greatly missed,” Sheriff Gautreaux said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Steven Whitstine, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.