CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Officer Ryan Bianca was in the final hour of his final day of patrol with the Clearwater Police Department. He was being promoted to a detective, and had spent hours detailing his patrol car in order to turn it in for an unmarked vehicle.
He was on the side of U.S. 19 just south of Countryside Boulevard and walked to speak with a tow truck driver he knew. On his way back to the patrol car, a car slammed into his cruiser.
“He didn’t brake into it. There was no warning. I couldn’t see his car because of my angle. I was in the same lane,” said Bianca. “Literally, first thing I heard was ‘boom’ and saw my car go up, back wheels came off the ground and stuff came flying out of it. “
Detective Bianca says after the impact, his training took over.
“Activated my camera, went straight to his car. His door was kind of jammed,” said Bianca. “So, we had to kind of pull it open and make sure he was all right.”
The driver, 57-year old Dennis Murphy is recovering from his injuries at a local hospital. Charges in the case are pending.
This is the third accident involving a patrol car in Pinellas County in just one week.
That driver, 47-year-old Tamico Gilbert is facing multiple DUI charges.
Clearwater Police Major Michael Walek says these cases cause concern. The move over law is there for a reason.
“Florida law requires you to move over a lane when you can safely do so,” said Major Walek. “For stopped law enforcement, emergency, sanitation and utility service vehicles, tow trucks.”
Major Walek says he knows that had the circumstances been just slightly different, the outcome could have been much worse.
“If he was in the car, or if he had been walking back to the car or getting out of the car, he would have been severely hurt,” said Major Walek.
Detective Bianca feels the same. “Lucky to be alive,” said Bianca. “Or at the very least, not in the hospital.”