Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

25 law enforcement recruits hit by wrong-way driver in South Whittier; 5 critically injured

25 law enforcement recruits hit by wrong-way driver in South Whittier; 5 critically injured

A wrong-way driver plowed into a group of law enforcement recruits while they were jogging in South Whittier Wednesday morning, injuring 25 recruits, five of them critically. The driver was also hurt.
The collision occurred around 6:25 a.m. near the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road, just a short distance from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s STAR Explore Training Academy.

The class of recruits included 75 people, 65 from the Sheriff’s Department and 10 from other law enforcement agencies, including the Bell, Glendale, Pasadena, El Segundo and UCLA police departments.

Though Fire Department officials at first said 23 total people were injured, 22 of them recruits, Sheriff Alex Villanueva later put the number of injured cadets at 25. Of those 25, 20 were from the LASD, 2 were from Bell, 2 were from Glendale and one was from Pasadena.

Five of the recruits were critically injured, four were moderately injured and 16 cadets sustained minor injuries, Villanueva said.

Injuries ranged from head trauma to broken bones and loss of limbs, the sheriff noted, adding that one recruit is on a ventilator.

“Now we’re facing some life-altering injuries for the most severely injured recruits … We hope all of them make a full recovery, and they’ll have a chance to come back and complete the academy. That’s my goal,” Villanueva said.

Patients were taken to several hospitals, including St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, LAC+USC Medical Center, UCI Medical Center and PIH Health Whittier Hospital.

“It is hard to see because these young people are getting ready to go put themselves in the line of danger in their career, and who knows that while you’re training to do that, you’ve put yourself in harm’s way,” Capt. Sheila Kelliher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department told reporters. “My heart goes out to all of them as they pursue this career. I hope they all have speedy recoveries and that they’re in good shape.”

The driver, who was detained at the scene, was identified as a 22-year-old man heading the wrong way on the street, according to Kelliher. He blew a 0.0 on the breathalyzer, and his injuries were minor.

California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Charlie Sampson told the Wall Street Journal that the driver is from Diamond Bar, though he declined to release the driver’s name. 

Sky5 aerial footage showed a gray SUV that had crashed into a light pole, sustaining major front-end damage.

Villanueva said some recruits reported that they heard the car accelerating up to 30 to 40 mph before the collision, and no skid marks were seen.

The recruits were accompanied by two black-and-white safety vehicles, and some were wearing reflective vests for safety, while others wore bright white shirts.

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