By BRUCE COLLIER
On Thursday, July 10, DeFuniak Springs Police Department (DFSPD) officers were involved in a two-car collision on U.S. 331 South at the intersection of the I-10 eastbound entrance ramp.
The unmarked police vehicle, a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, was driven by Investigator Brian Schultz, with passengers Sgt. Joseph Ward and police intern Laura Gainey. The officers were southbound on U.S. 331 South when they received a request from a state law enforcement officer to assist with the take-down of a vehicle that was eastbound on I-10 at approximately the 89 mile marker. The vehicle and its driver, were reportedly the subject of an ongoing undercover operation.
As the officers made the turn onto the ramp they failed to see a truck traveling north on U.S. 331. That vehicle, a blue Dodge pickup driven by Elliot W. Harrah of Fort Walton Beach, struck the unmarked police vehicle in the right passenger side. The impact was of sufficient force that Ward and Gainey were left pinned in the vehicle and had to be extracted by the jaws of life. All four persons were then transported to HealthMark Regional Medical Center. All were released with minor bruises and cuts except for Gainey, who suffered a fracture of the right shoulder and was transported to Pensacola for further evaluation and treatment.
Both vehicles were removed from the scene by wrecker service and the damage to both vehicles was considered to be major. Traffic was temporarily halted in the northbound lane which was cleared and returned to normal as soon as possible. The state officer who initiated the request departed from his suspect to assist the officers involved in the crash and the suspect was able to elude further police activity. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the accident and will be completing all required reports.