Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Baldwin police officer avoids U.S. 59 head-on

September 10, 2003

Baldwin Police Officer Chuck Hensley was able to avoid a potentially deadly head-on collision Friday afternoon while responding to a hold-up call while returning to town on U.S. Highway 59. But, it was costly.

"We were fortunate that no one was injured," said Police Chief Mike McKenna. "Unfortunately, we lost a patrol car."

Hensley was returning from Lawrence on police business Friday around 4 p.m. and was southbound on U.S. 59 just south of the Zarco gas station when the call came over the radio about trouble in Baldwin. He turned the car's lights and sirens on and started to pass another southbound vehicle. However, there was a northbound vehicle in the other lane in an area where there are no shoulders on the road, only steep drop offs to either side.

"The officer was responding to a hold-up alarm and he had to make a choice between hitting another vehicle or taking a ditch," McKenna said. "Thanks to his training and fast reaction, he chose the ditch and avoided a possible worse accident.

"I was glad we avoided a more potentially dangerous situation," he said. "These officers go through a defensive driving class and this is one of the times when it paid off."

Hensely's patrol car went off the east side of the highway and rolled into a ravine. He suffered only minor injuries and was treated and released from Lawrence Memorial Hospital Friday evening.

Hensely was in the department's 2002 patrol car which was totaled. Value of the car was around $25,000, which is covered by insurance.

"It was one of the new ones," McKenna said of the car.

Douglas County Sheriff's officers detoured traffic away from the accident site while it was being cleaned up.

"The detour lasted a couple of hours," he said. "The car was overturned and it took wrecker drivers awhile to get it winched out of the ditch."

As for the hold-up call, it turned out to be a false alarm.

"It was a false call," said McKenna. "You have to respond to each one of them as though they are the real thing. You don't have the luxury of knowing if this one is false.

"It was a bad situation that could have been much worse," he said. "Everyone was very fortunate -- the people in the other car, the officer and the city."

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