Whittier, CA – Twenty-five members of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) recruiting class were run over by a 22-year-old driver in an SUV on the wrong side of the roadway early on Wednesday morning.
The crash occurred at about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 16 while 75 recruits from the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services (STARS) Center were running down the street in a four-column formation, KNBC reported.
Authorities said the recruits were running in four columns with eight road guards who were all wearing reflective high-visibility vests running on the outside edges of their group.
The sheriff’s department said that drill instructors and safety vehicles had also accompanied the pack of 75 recruits on their training run for a fundraising event to support a fallen West Covina police officer, KNBC reported.
Witnesses said the recruits were at the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road when an SUV veered onto the wrong side of the road and ran over about a third of the future sheriff’s deputies.
The driver didn’t stop until he ran into a light pole, according to witnesses.
“It happened so quickly,” LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a media briefing. “They jumped out of the way, but the people behind had no chance. They never saw it.”
Sheriff Villanueva said the SUV was traveling 30-to-40 mph when it plowed into the group of runners.
The sheriff said there were no skid marks to evidence the driver had tried to stop, KNBC reported.
Authorities said the driver of the vehicle that ran over the law enforcement recruits was given a sobriety test at the scene and taken into custody, KTVU reported.
However, the results of the sobriety test have not yet been released.
Twenty-five recruits were injured, with five left in critical condition, KNBC reported.
At least two recruits had to be airlifted due to life-threatening injuries.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the victims represented about half of the current class of future sheriff’s deputies.
LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn on the mass casualty in Whittier where a group of recruits was mowed down by a 22yo wrong-way driver. Several are in critical condition. pic.twitter.com/46lUiqH5Tt
— Mario Ramirez (@MarioFOXLA) November 16, 2022
The driver of the SUV was also transported to a hospital for treatment, KNBC reported.
“They had zero warning,” LASD Captain Pat MacDonald told reporters. “Thank God for that light pole because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits.”
Less than a block away, first responders at Los Angeles County Fire Station 96 heard the loud crash of the SUV striking the pole and ran outside to see what had happened, KNBC reported.
“After they heard the accident, they immediately responded with 20 response vehicles,” LA County Fire Captain Sheila Kelliher told reporters.
“We had a ton of resources on scene, and it was amazing to watch those patients get off-scene as quickly as they did,” Kelliher said.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement about the tragedy, KNBC reported.
“I am shocked to hear that a driver plowed into a group of young sheriff’s academy cadets during their morning training run,” Barger said. “These individuals represent the future of law enforcement. They have incredible courage and my utmost respect for wanting to serve their communities.”
Tragic day in LA County! 25 recruits injured when a car veers into running formation. 5 r critical. Sheriff Villanueva describes injuries as life altering including loss of limbs.
So sad for these young recruits in the prime of their lives w their careers ahead of them. pic.twitter.com/QGC5IcZInP
— Christine Devine (@DevineNews) November 16, 2022
“I’m tracking this incident closely — it’s senseless and tragic. From the bottom of my heart, I am hoping no one was seriously hurt,” the statement read.
Details on the individual conditions of the injured recruits have not yet been released, nor have their identities, KNBC reported.
Sheriff Villanueva said there were multiple broken bones, head trauma, and a “loss of limb.”
The California Highway Patrol is heading up the investigation into the crash, KNBC reported.