Five Los Angeles County sheriff’s recruits were seriously injured Wednesday morning when a driver rammed into a large group while racing in Whittier, authorities said.
The crash happened near the sheriff’s training academy near Mills Avenue and Trumball Street, Deputy David Yoo said. The recruits were members of the STARS Explorer Academy.
Dispatchers received a call at 6:26 a.m. about an accident involving pedestrians, Deputy Brenda Serna said.
Los Angeles County Fire Captain Sheila Kelliher said 22 recruits were injured while running when the accident happened. It is not immediately known how many were directly hit by the vehicle. Five were in critical condition.
The recruits were running along Mills Road when they were hit, Kelliher said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the cadets usually ran in groups through the streets, with traffic guards and following a vehicle. It was unclear if they were wearing high-visibility gear at the time of the crash.
CHP Deputy Chief Charlie Sampson said there were about 75 recruits in training when the SUV veered into their group.
“It made me sick when I heard [about] that,” supervisor Janice Hahn said. KABC-TV. “I just hope and pray they all make it.”
Video of KTLA-TV showed a dark-colored vehicle that appeared to be a small SUV on a sidewalk with the front badly damaged. A downed lamppost lay on the ground in front of the vehicle.
More than a dozen ambulances responded to the scene, where firefighters had placed green, yellow and red triage mats, indicating the severity of the injuries, the video showed.
The nearby Howard J. McKibben Elementary School was closed and classes were canceled following the crash.
The 22-year-old driver of the vehicle was arrested, authorities said. The vehicle was going the wrong way, Kelliher said. She had no information about the driver’s condition before the accident, but noted that his car had knocked over one of the large streetlights, “so there was some speed there.”
The California Highway Patrol has resumed the investigation into the cause of the accident. CHP’s multi-disciplinary accident investigation team begins a forensic and technical examination of the scene.
“It looks like this car hasn’t slowed down,” Hahn said.
The driver was also taken to hospital with injuries, Kelliher said.
Police sources said the driver, who has not been identified, said he was dozing. Authorities have not detected any odor of alcohol, but are investigating whether he was under the influence of other controlled substances at the time of the accident.
Sampson said the driver was from Diamond Bar, but authorities are not releasing any additional information about him at this time.
“I am shocked to learn that a driver rammed a group of young Sheriff’s Academy cadets during their morning practice run,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement. . “I am following this incident closely. It’s senseless and tragic.
Cadets participate in a 22-week training program and there are currently two classes based at STARS Academy. They undergo extensive training in firearms, the law, police procedures, self-defense, law enforcement conduct, physical fitness, and de-escalation of force.
Morning runs near the academy are held in a group formation with a shout of pace similar to that of military training.
Anthony Mendoza, 75, stood outside his home, where yellow crime scene tape blocked Trumball Street and Mills Avenue. He has lived there for 25 years and has seen cadets parade over the years.
He said they normally go down Telegraph to Mills. He estimates it’s a four-mile run.
“They do it all the time. That’s what they do,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, he started hearing sirens around 6:30 a.m., but did not leave his home to check. Later, the authorities came knocking on his door and told his wife that there had been an accident.
“I don’t understand how this happened,” he said, pointing to the wreckage.
Raymond Espinosa, 92, lives near Mendoza. He didn’t hear the sirens; all he heard was a helicopter overheard. He learned of the accident on the news.
Espinosa, who has lived in his home for more than 50 years, has also seen the rookies run around the area in the past.
“You see them all coming here,” he said, adding that the neighborhood is generally pretty quiet and an accident like this is unusual. “It’s horrible.”
Throughout the morning, residents from across the city arrived at the intersection.
“Can you imagine the parents? They probably don’t even know their child was hit yet,” Jessica Martinez, 23, told her friend, Yvonne Salas, as they looked down the road.
The couple live in Whittier and had visited the scene. Martinez’s neighbor texted and asked if she saw what was happening on the news.
“It’s so sad,” said Martinez, who has a 3-year-old daughter.
“Stupid driver,” she added.