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Sleeping driver injures Brooksville officer, 2 others, police say


Published:   |   Updated: May 13, 2014 at 06:02 PM

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville Police Officer Meredith Blackman was flown to a trauma center Tuesday morning after her patrol vehicle was struck from behind by a 1994 Ford F-150 operated by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, police said. The crash resulted in a six-vehicle pile-up — and several injuries — on Broad Street at 8:12 a.m., police records said.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said the pickup’s driver, Catlin Joseph Nichols, 25, fell asleep at the wheel after working all night on a road construction job. Nicols was cited for careless driving.

“He’s been very cooperative,” Turner said of Nichols, who was treated and released from Brooksville Regional Hospital. “It’s unfortunate, but obviously it’s his responsibility to stay awake. People don’t fall asleep behind the wheel on purpose, but it happens, and fortunately no one was killed.”

Blackman’s vehicle, a Ford Crown Victoria, sustained heavy rear-end damage, as did the front of Nichols’ truck, including a badly cracked windshield.

Blackman, 30, was on patrol, and stopped behind four vehicles, when Nichols’ truck struck her squad car without braking, the Police department said. Blackman was alone in the patrol car, Turner said.

Also treated and released from Brooksville Regional on Tuesday were Tisa N. Thomas, 29, who was driving a 1999 Nissan that Blackman’s vehicle hit, and Lucille Chwalick, 51, who was driving a 2012 Ford, according to a police report.

Turner said that Blackman, a 2011 graduate of Pasco-Hernando State College’s Law Enforcement Academy, has been with the Police department since October. She has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and previously worked in the restaurant industry, Turner said.

Blackman was flown to the trauma center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson, records said.

“She’s been doing great” since October, Turner said. “When they first get here, they go through a 14-week field-training officer program. It’s a very regimented program where they ride along with multiple officers. We have absolutely great faith in her abilities, knowledge of the law and knowing what she’s doing out there. We’re hoping for a quick recovery, but it’s definitely too soon to say” when she might be back.

“We’ll support her any way we can,” Turner said.

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