An Ottumwa police officer has been issued a citation following his collision with a Bridge City Sanitation truck Tuesday morning.
Patrol officer Josh Kobes was cited in violation of Iowa Code Section 321.231, “Authorized emergency vehicles and police bicycles.”
The code states that a police officer may ”proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation” and the officer may “exceed the maximum speed limits so long as the driver does not endanger life or property.”
“He did not slow down before entering the intersection,” said Lt. Tom McAndrew.
At approximately 11:05 a.m. Tuesday, the Ottumwa Police Department received several 9-1-1 calls reporting either a drunken driver or a person operating a motor vehicle in need of medical assistance.
McAndrew said Kobes did have his sirens and lights activated before the accident occurred at West Main and South McLean streets. When Kobes entered the intersection, he hit the garbage truck driven by Ed Griffiths, of Ottumwa.
Kobes was taken to Ottumwa Regional Health Center with a complaint of minor neck pain and was later released. Griffiths was not injured.
Normally, during a call to a possible drunken driving incident, McAndrew said sirens and lights would not be used.
“But in this case we believe it was justified due to the circumstances,” he said. “We received several 9-1-1 calls from people observing a person driving a vehicle that had stopped in the middle of the intersection of Fourth and Wapello [streets]. He then went northbound up on a curb near Domino’s, then had driven down into the median of the highway a couple of times. Based on multiple 9-1-1 calls we were getting from drivers, that would deem it an emergency.”
Kobes will be issued the traffic ticket just as any other citizen would, McAndrew said, but then the investigation will be turned over to the Accident Review Board, which is “made up of different employees throughout the city.”
The board will review the circumstances and assess points. Based on these points, “there can be further discipline, which can be an oral reprimand, written reprimand, suspension or termination,” McAndrew said.
Kobes is going to be off for a couple of days following the accident, McAndrew said.
Whether Kobes’ vehicle hit the garbage truck or the truck hit Kobes “depends on how you want to look at it,” he said.
“The truck was eastbound, Kobes was northbound and they hit right at the corners,” he said.
McAndrew said the squad car was damaged on both the front and back ends likely because once the vehicle was hit, it spun and made contact again with the truck, “but that’s just speculation.
“It’s my most reasonable guestimate of what happened,” he said. “Weird things happen during traffic accidents.”
Luckily, the OPD was able to save the video from Kobes’ squad car.
“We had to call the company that makes our equipment, and they dialed into our computer server and were able to salvage it,” he said.
McAndrew said the squad car, one of the OPD’s newest vehicles, had 5,000 or fewer miles on its odometer.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage yet,” he said. “Right now we’re just finishing up the investigation. We just got reports done today and we still don’t have the complete report from Iowa State Patrol. I’m sure an insurance claim will be filed, and we’ll go from there.”
Iowa State Patrol reported $5,000 of damage to the garbage truck, he said.