WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — An SUV traveling on the wrong side of the road struck 25 Los Angeles County sheriff’s academy recruits on a training run around dawn Wednesday, critically injuring five of them, authorities said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the range of the most serious injuries included head trauma, broken bones and “loss of limb.” The trainees included recruits for the Sheriff’s Department and several local police agencies.
The crash investigation is being handled by the California Highway Patrol and “so far, it looks like it’s an accident, a horrific accident,” Villanueva said.
CHP Assistant Chief Charlie Sampson said about 75 recruits were running in formation northbound in the street when the southbound vehicle veered into the opposing lane and struck the victims.
Sampson said all possibilities, ranging from an intentional act to impaired driving, will be investigated.
The driver was only identified as a 22-year-old man from suburban Diamond Bar. The sheriff said a field sobriety test on the driver was negative. County Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Sheila Kelliher said the driver also had a minor injury.
“I am personally heart sick,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, adding that she was focusing on the cadets who were injured to pull through this.
The crash occurred just before 6:30 a.m. in suburban Whittier, where a training academy is located.
The recruits were running in four columns with two black-and-white radio cars and eight “road guards” wearing reflective vests, said Capt. Patrick Mcdonald, captain of the academy.
Deputies got help from a nearby county fire station, but also immediately transported some of the most badly injured directly to hospitals, possibly saving their lives, said county Fire Chief Anthony C. Marrone.
TV news helicopter broadcasts showed a large response of firefighters and ambulances, an SUV with severe front-end damage straddling a toppled pole on a sidewalk, as well as numerous individuals nearby in uniform workout clothes. Close by was also a 25 mph (40 kph) speed limit sign.
Running shoes and a backpack were strewn around the scene.
“Our hearts are with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s recruits injured this morning while training to serve their communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Jennifer and I send our best wishes for their recovery and stand with their loved ones and colleagues at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during this difficult time.”