'It looked like airplane wreck': 25 LA County sheriffs injured, 5 critical in horrific California SUV crash

'It looked like airplane wreck': 25 LA County sheriffs injured, 5 critical in horrific California SUV crash
Five people were in critical condition, and one of them was on a ventilator after the crash (CBS Los Angeles/video screenshot)

WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA: Five people were critically injured after a driver who was "going the wrong-way" in an SUV hit as many as 25 Los Angeles County sheriffs and police recruits, authorities said. The officers were on a training run Wednesday morning, November 16, at the time of the incident, authorities said.

In a Facebook post, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department wrote, "Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Recruit class assigned to the STARS Center Training Academy, Whittier, were struck by a moving vehicle at approximately 6:26 am on the 10600 block of Mills Avenue during their run while on training. There were multiple injuries, and all victims were transported to local hospitals for further treatment. Currently, it is unknown the severity of their injuries. The vehicle's driver that struck the recruits was detained pending further investigation. There is no additional information available at this time. We pray for the recovery of all the recruits."


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"They were running, doing their morning training exercise when this person ran into them," Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson Capt Sheila Kelliher said at a news conference, according to USA Today


The driver has been identified as a 22-year-old male from Diamond Bar. He suffered minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital. According to authorities, he was detained "pending further investigation". 

In an update, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said five people were in critical condition, and one of them was on a ventilator. Four people suffered moderate injuries, while 16 recruits had minor injuries. All the injured people were taken to nearby hospitals, some of them with head trauma, broken bones and loss of limbs. The class had about 75 people, and recruits were from the police departments of Bell, Glendale, Pasadena, El Segundo and UCLA. While two of the injured recruits were from Bell,  two were from Glendale and another from Pasadena. The rest of the injured were reportedly Los Angeles County Sheriff's recruits. 

"We're just facing some life-altering injuries for some most severely injured recruits," Villanueva said. "This is this is very, very odd, to say the least. I don't think I've ever heard of this. "It looked like an airplane wreck. There were so many bodies scattered everywhere in different states of injury that it was pretty traumatic for all individuals involved," he added.

Jennifer Garcia Tarara, 49, a Whittier resident who lives near the crash scene, was notified about the incident by a friend. She then walked over to the area. "It’s really sad," said. "Recruits that were getting ready to put their lives on the line for us and something like this happens, it hits close to home."

Anthony Mendoza, who also lives nearby, told the Southern California News Group that he woke up to the crash sounds. Crashes are common on this road, he said. “It happens here a lot,” Mendoza said. “During school, the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. But cars are going 60 to 80 miles per hour racing down the street. That’s the way it is. I don’t understand.”

According to Villanueva, a field sobriety test determined the driver was not intoxicated. The cause of the crash remains unknown. Reportedly, the vehicle was in a southbound lane before crossing into a northbound lane. Some recruits told responding authorities the vehicle could have been going around 30 to 40 miles per hour. 

The vehicle reportedly stopped after hitting a light pole. "Thank God for that light pole, because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department training bureau Capt Pat MacDonald said.

"Our hearts are with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s recruits injured this morning while training to serve their communities," California 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."

Villanueva said the California Highway Patrol is leading the crash investigation. Assistant Chief Charlie Sampson of the California Highway Patrol claimed all possibilities are being looked into, from an intentional act to impaired driving.

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