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FHP: Cape police officer at fault in traffic accident

By Staff | Jan 13, 2015

A Cape Coral police officer has been found at fault in a crash that sent four to the hospital.

Officer Thomas Kortright, 36, was responding to a call on duty Saturday night when he reportedly struck a raised curb and lost control of his police vehicle, then crashed into a van and a motorcycle.

“The Cape PD officer is shown as contributing to the cause of the crash,” Lt. Gregory Bueno, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, said Tuesday in an email. “The officer was shown at fault on the crash report, aka ‘contributing to the crash,’ due to driving too fast for (the) conditions.”

According to the FHP, Kortright was traveling south on Santa Barbara Boulevard in the center lane in a Ford Crown Victoria. In front of him was a Ford van, driven by Osmar Jui Rivera, 50. Further ahead in the outside lane was a Suzuki motorcycle, carrying Jesse Taylor, 32, and Heather Henry, 23.

At about 6:55 p.m., Kortright moved to the inside lane in the 2200 block of Santa Barbara to pass the slower moving van. The Crown Victoria, however, was reportedly moving too fast for the conditions and Kortright lost control. The left side tires of the vehicle collided into the raised curb of the median.

As Kortright overcorrected, the right front side of the Crown Victoria struck the left front side of the van, the FHP reported. The impact redirected the van west, and it traveled over a curbed median before striking a fence on the grounds of Cape Coral High School in the 2300 block. It came to a final stop.

The Crown Victoria continued traveling southwest into the outside lane, and the front right side of the vehicle collided into the left rear side of the motorcycle. Taylor and Henry were ejected as a result.

Kortright, Rivera, Taylor and Henry were transported to the Cape Coral Hospital with injuries.

Hospital officials reported on Tuesday that Rivera, Taylor and Henry had been discharged.

Kortright was not listed in the hospital directory, but police officials confirmed he was at work.

“Officer Kortright is working,” Sgt. Dana Coston, spokesman for the CCPD, said Tuesday.

Bueno noted that the CCPD is conducting an investigation into the crash.

“Being he (Kortright) was responding to a call, Cape PD will handle the administrative review of his response to the call,” he said.

Coston confirmed that the department is conducting an internal investigation.

“All crashes are reviewed by the Professional Standards Bureau to determine if a policy violation or training issue exists,” he said.

On Tuesday, Cape residents Taylor and Henry were still reeling from the accident.

“We didn’t even see it coming,” Henry, whose boyfriend was driving the motorcycle as she rode on it, said. “All I saw were the lights, then the greatest impact ever – and then I just went bouncing.”

Taylor was slowing down for a red light, preparing to turn for gas when it happened.

“It took me by surprise,” he said. “It’s a miracle he somehow only managed to hit the bike and tire.”

After the collision, Taylor said his first thought and concern was for his girlfriend.

“I heard him screaming for me,” Henry said. “We were flung apart from each other – I remember getting up in the road and crawling to the grass.”

Both were wearing helmets and other protective gear at the time.

“Obviously, it’s terrible having to deal with anything like this, but I’m thankful we’re alive,” he said.

Henry echoed that.

“I’d definitely glad I’m alive, but I’m in a lot of pain,” she said. “I’m glad everyone involved is OK.”

Taylor noted that he has seen other motorcycle crashes before.

“I don’t know why we’re alive, honestly,” he said. “It could have just been so much worse.”

Taylor and Henry have hired Cape-based attorney Domenic Valentine, of the Smith & Valentine law firm, to represent them. He explained that the Florida No-Fault benefits do not extend to them because they were on a motorcycle. They could have received up to $10,000 each for their medical expenses.

“They also have no private health insurance,” Valentine said Tuesday.

He estimated that their bills are already in the thousands, with follow-up treatment likely in store.

“The medical bills up to this date and going forward are out-of-pocket,” Valentine said.

He and his clients are awaiting the diagnosis and finalized crash report.

Kortright could not be reached for comment on Tuesday regarding the accident.