Woman says officer to blame for accident

A woman who witnessed a two-car accident involving a Grand Junction police car on Wednesday disputes that the other driver who was ticketed was at fault and said the blame should instead lie with the officer.

The accident happened at the intersection of Fifth Street and Pitkin Avenue after a van ran a red light and the officer’s car was struck broadside by another vehicle as the officer pursued the van, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

State Patrol Cpl. Denny O’Leary told The Daily Sentinel on Wednesday the officer, directly behind the van and heading east on Pitkin, activated his emergency lights and siren. His car was hit on the driver’s side by a woman heading south on Fifth who entered the intersection when the light on Fifth turned green.

O’Leary said the woman was issued a ticket for failing to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle. The State Patrol has not yet identified the woman or the police officer. Neither was injured.

But Jennifer Smith of Montrose said Thursday she doesn’t think the woman is responsible for the crash.

Smith said she was driving in the lane immediately to the right of the woman Wednesday. She said she saw the van speed through the intersection in front of them, looked up, saw the light was green and hesitated for some reason for a split second. While she hesitated, the woman next to her pulled into the intersection and collided with the police car that was chasing after the van.

Smith said the officer “was flying through that (red) light,” and she didn’t hear the officer’s siren or see his emergency lights until the collision occurred. She said if she hadn’t hesitated, it would have been her in the accident.

“Clearly it could have been done differently if he had just slowed down. For (the woman) to be at fault for this is just bull. It’s craziness,” Smith said. “There’s no way we could have heard or seen that cop coming.”

Smith said she and the other woman looked at each other after the collision, and the woman appeared dazed but unharmed. Smith said she was shaken by the accident but drove away after she saw someone come to the woman’s aid and because she was late for an appointment as a therapist.

O’Leary couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. A call to the State Patrol troop office in Fruita requesting a copy of the accident report wasn’t returned.


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