Highway 109 was blocked for more than four hours after a 26-year-veteran Grays Harbor Sheriff’s deputy struck an oncoming vehicle Monday night about 10 miles north of Hoquiam. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether he had some sort of medical incident at the time.
According to the Washington State Patrol, Deputy Richard Cork, 55, crossed the center line in his patrol vehicle at about 10:20 Monday night and struck an SUV heading the opposite direction. Both the deputy and the 30-year-old Aberdeen woman driving the other car were transported to Grays Harbor Community Hospital, treated and released that night. Both vehicles are considered total losses.
The State Patrol noted the deputy was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the collision. Although that would typically be an infraction, Trooper Russ Winger said there likely won’t be action against the deputy in this case.
“When you’re on duty in a police capacity, there (are) different rules. … That’s where they have internal sanctions. We don’t take it upon ourselves to issue an infraction ticket to an officer when he’s on duty performing his job,” he said.
The State Patrol will investigate the crash and exactly what caused Cork to cross the center line.
“Someone asked if it would be negligent and that’s not automatically so,” Winger said. “You can actually cross the center line and hit somebody and it’s an infraction. … We will complete the investigation, if there’s no criminal charge, which I don’t believe there’s going to be in this case, then it goes to their internal policy review.”
Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said the department will wait on the complete investigation before making any decisions about reprimands.
“You’ve got to look at the totality of the circumstances. If it was in fact a medical issue, then maybe not,” he said. “If he did something negligent, then there absolutely would be some kind of consequence.”
One thing they know at this point, he added, “There’s definitely no indication of alcohol on either side, or drugs or excessive speed.”
“He was responding routine to assist an officer on another call, which was not an urgent call. We are not yet sure why he crossed over the center line.”
Cork was on sick leave Tuesday, Shumate said, and likely will be “for the foreseeable future.” He said Cork was suffering from significant soreness and would be examined by a doctor again this week.
“It was a pretty significant collision, we’re thankful he was treated and released,” Shumate said.
Sheriff’s Office policy requires all officers to wear seat belts while operating a motor vehicle, and Shumate said they’re looking into how the State Patrol determined Cork was not wearing his.
“It’s a violation of policy, so once this investigation is concluded we’ll look into whether he violated any policies and we’ll address it at our level,” he explained. “From there the consequence really would depend on whether he’s had any other violations of this nature, and I do not believe that he has.”
Cork likely won’t be facing anything like losing his job, Shumate said.
“More likely than not, if it was found that he wasn’t wearing it, he could get a letter saying it’s violating policy.”