WHITTIER, CA – Twenty-five police academy recruits were injured Wednesday morning when an SUV drove through the group while they were running around dawn in the 10600 block of Mills Avenue.
The vehicle was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the collision. Five of the recruits were critically injured, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The injuries for the most seriously injured ranged from head trauma to broken bones and “loss of limb.” At least one of them remains on a ventilator at the time of this writing.
There were about 75 recruits from multiple agencies in the area, including Bell, Glendale, Pasadena, El Segundo, and UCLA police departments, as well as LASD, running in formation when the vehicle struck academy members. All the victims were taken to the hospital.
The driver of the vehicle was detained pending investigation, but no further information has been released at this time, except Sheriff Villanueva saying that “so far, it looks like it’s an accident, a horrific accident,” and that the driver was a 22-year-old male from Diamond Bar. A field sobriety test on the driver was conducted but showed no signs of alcohol impairment. The driver reportedly “blew a 0.0″ and had a minor injury. Drug impairment is still being investigated.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, “I am personally heartsick.”
Sheriff Villanueva said that some of the victims’ family members were transported to the hospital, including some who were taken by Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
“It happened so quickly,” Sheriff Villanueva said. “They jumped out of the way, but the people behind had no chance. They never saw it.
“Fortunately, every class, typically, we have EMTs, I think this class even had an RN who was a recruit, so they were able to provide first aid right on the spot with the equipment that they had. They went over, ran to the fire station, and knocked on the door because it was literally just half a block away. That was fortunate as well, so things that worked in our favor happened.”
Reportedly, when the recruits run, there are two patrol vehicles that follow along as safety escorts. There were also eight road guards who were wearing reflective vests. The vehicle veered over from southbound lanes going between 30-40 MPH when he struck the running formation.
The head of the training department, LASD Capt. Pat MacDonald said, “There was a light pole on the east side of the street, and the one thing that was relayed to me was, ‘Thank God for that light pole’ because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits.”
Captain Sheila Kelliher of the LA County Fire Department said that the firefighters at Station 96 heard a loud crash after seeing the recruits run by. “After they heard the accident, they immediately responded with 20 response vehicles.”
California Highway Patrol is handling the investigation.