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Police car at fault in Oak Harbor
A chase gone bad has resulted in two claims filed against Oak Harbor and an internal review of the incident by the city’s police department.
James McFaul of Hattiesburg, Miss., and his son, David McFaul of Oak Harbor, both submitted claims for financial damages on Feb. 14, two days after the vehicle they were in was broadsided by a patrol car.
Police Chief Rick Wallace confirmed that the collision did occur and said it was a significant accident. It was investigated by the Washington State Patrol and the agency has concluded that the officer was at fault, he said.
The Oak Harbor Police Department’s internal Accident Review Board, which is being led by Lt. John Dyer, is also doing an investigation; it’s standard procedure anytime an accident involves an officer. It will examine a range of issues, from fault and possible disciplinary action to department policies and whether additional training for officers is needed.
The collision occurred on Feb. 12 at about 8:30 p.m. According to Wallace, an officer attempted to pull over a vehicle earlier in the evening for a traffic infraction, but it took off and the pursuit was terminated.
The same vehicle was spotted on Heller Street a short time later by Officer Steve Nordstrand, a former department drug abuse resistance education, or DARE, officer. Norstrand began a pursuit and was going through the intersection at Whidbey Avenue when his car collided with the McFauls’ vehicle.
The McFauls, traveling in a 2007 Buick Terraza van, were eastbound on Whidbey Avenue and proceeding through the intersection on a green light when they were struck, according to their claims for damages.
The force of the collision resulted in the patrol car hitting a third vehicle, a 1999 Ford Windstar van driven by Oak Harbor resident Frank Campos.
Following the accident, both of the McFauls went to Whidbey General Hospital. According to their claims, each received medical attention but neither was seriously injured in the crash. James said this week that he was sore but recovering.
He complimented both the city and its insurance company, the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, for their cooperation.
“They’ve been super,” James said.
Neither of the McFauls’ claims listed specific monetary amounts; James is asking to be reimbursed for personal injury expenses and hotel and airline costs related to the accident, and David is seeking compensation for property damage and medical injury expenses.
According to Wallace, officer-related crashes are rare with between one and four occurring annually. The vast majority are minor fender benders and many are the fault of other drivers.
“I’m very proud of the low number of officer-at-fault accidents that occur,” he said.
He added that Nordstrand is a veteran officer and that this is the first collision he knows of that Nordstrand has been involved in.
As for the car that was being pursued, Wallace said it was found unoccupied the next day. Police are investigating whether the registered owner was driving at the time of the incident. If the owner was, he or she could face felony charges of evading police.