Andrea Richard of Sulphur, La., says she had never been in a wreck before. But after Friday afternoon, Sept. 28, she and her 7-year-old granddaughter will have their own cautionary tale to tell.
It all started just after 2 p.m. when Beaumont Police dispatch received a call that an 18-wheeler traveling westbound in the 1700 block of Interstate 10 near Babe Zaharias Park had lost a portion of its load. The truck’s back doors came open and several large tires fell out. According to police, the driver continued westbound, leaving a mess in his wake.
Traffic began slowing, but Beaumont police responded quickly. Officer Ronald D. Patton, with the help of another officer, were trying to clear the roadway 15 minutes later.
The motorist from Sulphur knew none of this, but she says she did notice the change in traffic flow. “(A) car apparently decided to start slowing down,” Richard, 52, would say later in an interview with The Examiner on the scene. “I don’t know exactly why, and I was trying to stop from hitting (it), and the black truck behind me hit me”
Richard’s Mazda SUV, struck from behind by a 39-year-old male in a Toyota Tundra, surged forward into Officer Patton and his police car, according to a BPD press release.
Patton, in the inside lane trying to move one of the tires, saw it coming. He noticed the vehicle just before it struck him and tried to jump toward the median. Patton was struck and thrown into the air, over the median and into the eastbound lane of traffic, the BPD statement says.
After the chain-reaction wreck, Richard didn’t seem to believe she had hit the officer. She was aware, however, of the risk Patton took — and his injuries.
“He was out of the vehicle,” Richard said “I know his leg is hurt, and they took him off.”
Officer Patton was conscious at the scene, and EMS Med 1 transported him to Baptist Hospital in Beaumont. He was treated for minor bruises and abrasions and released the same day.
Everyone else was treated at the scene and released by EMS.
“We’re OK,” Richard said. “I’ve got a burn, I think, on my arm. The lady stopped on the other side and said, ‘I thought you were going to come over the median.’ Yes, I kinda did. … I went up and when I came down, I realized I was still upright and there was another car in front of me and it was a police car. I said, ‘Great.’”
Patton, 28, has been with the Beaumont Police Department for three and a half years.
The 18-wheeler driver returned to the scene to pick up his tires and speak with traffic investigators. Investigators are still investigating the crash.