WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) — A total of 25 recruits from various Southern California law enforcement agencies were injured after being struck by an oncoming driver during an early morning run Wednesday, authorities said.
The incident happened in the South Whittier neighborhood near Mills Avenue and Trumball Street around 6:29 a.m.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a class of about 75 recruits were on the run on a training exercise when a 22-year-old driver rammed into the group.
The driver, who has not yet been identified, has since been arrested.
A total of five recruits are currently in critical condition, four are being treated for “moderate” injuries and 16 have minor injuries.
Villanueva said the recruits came from several different agencies, including Bell, Glendale, Pasadena, El Segundo and UCLA police departments. The others belonged to the sheriff’s department.
The driver was also injured and suffered only minor injuries, according to firefighters. Authorities said he also crashed into a nearby lamp post during the incident.
Villanueva said the driver took a field sobriety test shortly after the accident and “blew a 0.0”.
The test does not rule out the presence of drugs, but Villanueva said the official cause of the incident remains unknown.
When asked if the accident appeared to be accidental or intentional, Villanueva responded to reporters by saying, “It looks like an accident, a horrible accident.”
The recruits were all sent to various area hospitals, but the most critical patients were rushed before paramedics arrived.
Villanueva said injuries ranged from head trauma to broken bones and loss of limbs. He said at least one is on a ventilator.
Some of the injured will be discharged from hospital as early as Wednesday, authorities said.
According to LASD Captain Pat MacDonald, who runs the department’s training office, said the recruits all left for their run with two patrol vehicles that function as an escort, which he said is typical when classes of recruits are taking place.
They ran down the street in a formation of four columns as they ran.
Earlier Wednesday, as the scene unfolded, AIR7 HD captured more than a dozen sheriff units as well as several fire engines and ambulances at the scene. First responders were seen treating recruits in the middle of the street and loading several others into ambulances.
A man who lives in the area said he woke up after hearing the crash and ran outside.
“I came out to see people on the ground…it was really crazy,” said the witness, who wished to be identified only as Joseph. “Everyone was a little freaked out, there were wires on fire and the car was smoking…it was really a graphic scene.”
Joseph said he and several other neighbors rushed to help some of the recruits by giving them water and towels.
“The car was completely destroyed, as if the whole front end was finished,” he said. “The lamp post was on the floor…it was like three or four of us had gone out because it had happened before. We’ve lived here for 10 years. It’s happened before, like when a car crashed into a gate, but it was like… no one could imagine that happening.”
WATCH: Witness recalls seeing recruits with injuries to their legs, blood on their faces
Joseph described the massive scene as “surreal” and said he saw several seriously injured patients.
“There were so many people. Everyone was in various conditions, some were unconscious, some were still conscious, some with very serious leg injuries. There were people bleeding from their faces. The Sheriff’s Academy… like they run around here all the time so you kind of feel connected to them,” Joseph said. “So it was a really crazy thing to wake up to.”
This is a developing story. This article will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.
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