August 1 , 2008


City police officer injured in accident

Detective in good condition at Upstate Medical Center after being rear-ended on Tompkins St.


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Cortland Police Department officers investigate the scene of a rear-end collision Thursday afternoon at the corner of Tompkins and Owego streets. Cortland Police Sgt. Fred L. Whitsett was driving the Ford Taurus and was injured in the crash.

Staff Reporter

A city police officer was injured Thursday afternoon when a truck struck the back of his unmarked police car on Tompkins Street.
Sgt. Fred L. Whitsett, a police detective, was on duty and driving southwest in a 2006 Taurus SE at about 2:20 p.m. Thursday when he slowed to make a left turn onto Owego Street.
A container truck driven by Ronald A. Vogel of Michigan slammed into the back of Whitsett’s car, and both vehicles slid 132 feet before coming to rest on the west side of Tompkins Street.
City firefighters freed Whitsett from the vehicle using the Jaws of Life, since the crash had crumpled his car, completely collapsing the trunk, blowing out the rear windshield and twisting the rear section of the car’s frame. Police said the vehicle was a total loss.
Whitsett, an 18-year veteran of the city police force, was conscious and spoke to other police officers and emergency medical services workers. Rescue crews strapped him to a backboard and placed an immobilizing collar around his neck before loading him onto a gurney and into a TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance.
He was taken to Cortland Regional Medical Center for evaluation.
He was transferred late Thursday to University Hospital in Syracuse, where he was listed in good condition.
Vogel was issued tickets for following too closely, inadequate logbook and chafed brake lines, violations, after the State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit completed its investigation of the truck and the accident.
The truck, an empty delivery vehicle owned by Toledo, Ohio-based Bolt Express, was only slightly damaged in the crash. The front driver’s side bumper had bent inward slightly.
“It looked to me like he (Whitsett) was trying to turn left onto Owego Street,” said Adrien Rainbow, who said she saw the accident happen right in front of her home at 68 Tompkins St. “Then, wham! Like ice skates, the car just went. I’d never seen anything like that.”
She said Whitsett’s car’s brake lights were on when the accident happened, but that she could not be sure if he had his turn signal on at the time.
Rainbow said she had been collecting her recycling bins when the accident occurred, and that it took place only about 30 feet from where she stood.
Pieces of fender and insulating material were strewn across the southwest lane of Tompkins Street after the accident, and the two vehicles had been pulled to the side of the road.
Police Chief James Nichols said the Tompkins Street-Owego Street intersection is one of the more hazardous ones in the city.
Tompkins Street is a busy single lane road in each direction, and southwest-bound traffic must come to a complete stop if a driver is waiting to turn left onto Owego, as Whitsett was.
“This is a tricky intersection,” he said.
City police are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call Lt. Jonathan Gesin at (607) 758-8301.


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