Niceville, FL – Niceville Police Department (NPD) K9 Blue died in the line of duty on Aug. 7 after a driver crashed into the patrol vehicle he was riding in with his partner.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said the incident occurred on State Road 85 just south of State Road 123 at approximately 5:55 p.m., the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
According to NPD Chief David Popwell, K9 Blue and his human partner, NPD Sergeant Phillip Ritcheson, were heading to work in their patrol truck when a van attempted to change lanes and crashed into the back end of their vehicle.
The force of the impact caused the patrol truck to overturn before both vehicles came to a stop on the south shoulder of the roadway, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
Sgt. Ritcheson suffered serious injuries in the crash and was rushed to HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital.
He remained hospitalized Monday with non-life threatening injuries.
The 40-year-old female driver of the van suffered minor injuries in the collision, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
K9 Blue, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, was killed in the violent crash.
His body was escorted to Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital with the help of an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit later that night, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
“We are so grateful Sgt. Ritcheson will be okay and send our sincerest sympathies in the loss of your beautiful and devoted K9 Blue,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office told the NPD in a Facebook post. “We appreciate and respect his service to the community.”
K9 Blue served the NPD for five years, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Chief Popwell announced the beloved K9’s death in a press release on Aug. 8.
“We appreciate all the love and support that has been shown,” he wrote.
— Butch Tucker (@butchtucker) August 14, 2022
Our thoughts are with the Niceville Police Department and the handler and friends of K-9 Blue who was killed in a vehicle crash. The officer suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. K-9 Blue was a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois who had served for 5 years. #LODD #EOW #K9 pic.twitter.com/Belhi9K2jN
— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) August 10, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Niceville Police Department and Sgt. Ritcheson in the loss of K9 Blue.