JOHNSON COUNTY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Dukes of Hazzard and movie stunt video are among the descriptions of dash-cam video just released by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. But those comments always follow an initial gasp.
The video shows a white utility truck in mid-air, flying through the screen from left to right, clipping the back of an Iowa State Patrol car on the shoulder of Interstate 80 and narrowly missing two deputies as it plunges into the ditch.
It happened last Friday morning near the Oxford exit as the officers investigated an accident. Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek says it’s what you can’t see in the video that is most alarming. That smaller truck in the video is being launched into the air by a semi that rear-ended it.
Pulkrabek says Reserve Deputy Kim Pearson, Deputy Aaron Hammes and Trooper Jesse Hernandez, who was inside the squad, could all have died, “ 13 seconds prior to the collision Reserve Deputy Pearson moves out of the path of what ultimately the truck takes. Clearly she would have been killed.
It could have been a double fatal and it’s arguable whether Hernandez could have been killed as well, so you could have had a triple fatality out on the interstate. “ As it was, the deputies escaped injury, but you can hear them shouting through Hernandez’ window and asking if he needs an ambulance.
The trooper suffered back injuries, but is now back on the job. It’s a scary reminder of what men and women in law enforcement face every day working on busy highways where drivers often make bad decisions. Veteran trooper, Sgt. Sharon Kurt points out that Iowa has a ‘move over law.’ It requires motorists who see flashing emergency lights along the road to move over to the lane furthest away from the emergency vehicles.
Sgt. Kurt says unfortunately she encounters drivers all the time who have never heard of the law. While the semi driver in the crash caught on dash cam received a $195 ticket, Kurt says there may be a priceless message for those who see the video, “If they are in a similar situation where they see emergency vehicles on the side of the road, their first, immediate reaction should be to slow down."
Sgt. Kurt says it’s simply by the grace of God that the Johnson County deputies standing outside Trooper Hernandez’ squad moved out of the way seconds before the crash. Sheriff Pulkrabek says it’s especially frustrating for deputies to be able to look at video like this and realize what could have happened to their fellow officers and know that if drivers were paying attention, nothing would have happened at all, “What’s baffling to me is the fact that as people are approaching, they don’t see the emergency lights or they don’t heed them and start slowing down. “