SOUTH WHITTIER, Calif. (KTLA) – A wrong-way driver plowed into a group of law enforcement recruits who were jogging in Southern California on Wednesday morning, injuring 25 — and five of them critically.
The collision, which took place at about 6:25 a.m., sent dozens of police, fire and medical units to the scene of the incident at an intersection in South Whittier, near the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s STAR Explore Training Academy.
The class of recruits included 75 people, 65 from the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and 10 from other law enforcement agencies, including the Bell, Glendale, Pasadena, El Segundo and UCLA police departments.
Though 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, 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 others were minorly injured, officials said.
Injuries ranged from head trauma to broken bones and loss of limbs, the sheriff noted, adding that one recruit is on a ventilator. Patients were being treated at several area hospitals, including St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood and LAC+USC Medical Center.
“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.
Capt. Sheila Kelliher of the Los Angeles County Fire Department had earlier issued a statement wishing all of the injured recruits a speedy recovery.
“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,” said Capt. Kelliher. “So my heart goes out to all of them as they pursue this career.”
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. 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.
Aerial footage from Nexstar’s KTLA, taken shortly after the incident, showed a gray SUV, possibly a Honda CRV, that appeared to have crashed into a pole, suffering major front-end damage. Victims were also seen being attended to by emergency personnel, with some on gurneys and others receiving care at the scene.
“The vehicle’s driver that struck the recruits was detained pending further investigation,” the department said in a press release.
The driver was identified as a 22-year-old man heading the wrong way on the street, according to Kelliher. His injuries were minor.
A motive, and the events leading up the crash, are still under investigation.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.