Ketchikan officer crashes SUV in basin

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

KETCHIKAN - A Ketchikan police officer had to shoot out the window of his police SUV to escape after he crashed it through a concrete barrier into Thomas Basin.

The driver and sole occupant, Sgt. Howard Townsend, suffered bumps and bruises in the incident early Sunday morning, Deputy Chief Josh Dossett said.

Townsend refused pain medication until he was tested for drugs and alcohol in his system.

Townsend was on duty at the time, but was not in pursuit or responding to a call, Dossett said.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation and a report is expected by mid-week. Townsend will be on leave until the investigation is completed.

Dossett said Townsend was driving on Mill Street just after midnight Sunday when the vehicle went through the Federal Building parking lot, crashed through a guard rail and a concrete barrier, and dropped about 14 feet into the water.

Dossett said the SUV floated under a gangway and started filling with water. That shorted out the electrical system, making the automatic windows inoperative.

Townsend "was forced to discharge his firearm to shoot the window to get out of the vehicle," Dossett said.

The SUV remained in the water until mid-afternoon Sunday, to the delight of cruise ship visitors.

Many tourists gathered at the Stedman Street bridge around noon, pointing to the SUV and snapping photographs.

A white oil containment boom surrounded the vehicle because of possible fuel leaks.

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