TEMPLE TERRACE, FL (WFLA) — It’s happened again. Florida Highway Patrol says a wrong-way driver crashed into two vehicles, including a marked Temple Terrace police vehicle, Tuesday night in Pasco County.
According to the FHP report, the wrong-way driver was traveling east in the westbound lanes on Clinton Avenue near US 301 around 9:10 p.m. Tuesday. Both the patrol car and a third vehicle were traveling north on US 301 and turned left onto Clinton Ave. when the collision occurred.
The vehicle traveling the wrong way, a Hyundai Sonata driven by 63-year-old Louise Valentine of Dade City, collided head-on with the patrol car, driven by Officer Nick Dittman, 31, of Temple Terrace.
Florida Highway Patrol says the impact caused the Hyundai to rotate and collide with the third car, a Honda Civic, driven by 20-year-old Charity Cangro of Dade City.
“The officer was here, and I was back here, and the car hit him and from the impact of that, the car spun so the front end of my car hit the back of hers,” Cangro said. “Scary. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could but I didn’t do it quite fast enough to avoid being involved. ”
“I almost expected (Officer Dittman) to be like, ‘Okay, I just got hit. I’m going to head to the hospital, but instead he stayed around and he was more concerned with my well-being and the woman’s well-being and everyone around us. He wanted to make sure everybody else was okay before he took care of himself,” she added.
Dittman was driving home from a firearms training class in Lakeland at that time. Temple Terrace police say just before the collision, Dittman turned on his emergency lights to alert other drivers. Despite being injured in the accident, Officer Dittman rendered first aid at the scene, police say.
Valentine was airlifted to Bayonet Point with serious injuries. Officer Dittman was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital for minor injuries, and released, and Chagro received minor injuries but was not transported.
News Channel 8 spoke with the wrong-way driver’s husband. He said his wife suffered extensive injuries but is expected to survive. She doesn’t remember the accident, he added.
The crash remains under investigation, as to the actions of the wrong-way driver before the crash. FHP says alcohol was not a factor in this crash.
On March 12th, a wrong-way driver crashed into a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office patrol car on the Selon Expressway in Tampa. Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr., 30, was killed, along with the wrong-way driver Erik Thomas McBeth. A recent report shows that McBeth’s alcohol level was .27 at the time of the crash.