What to Know
32-year officer David Walpole had just answered a call and was returning to beach patrol when he ran over people on a blanket, cops say
The victims were taken to hospitals; the man remained there Monday morning, but he is expected to survive
Authorities are describing the case as a "freak accident," and say the information has been turned over to the district attorney
A 32-year police officer accidentally ran over two beachgoers as they sunned on a blanket on some Long Island Sunday in what authorities are calling a "freak accident."
Officer David Walpole had just answered a call and was returning to patrol on Long Beach around 8 p.m. when he ran over a man and woman with his police truck while making a three-point turn at under 5 miles an hour, authorities said.
"He just didn't see them," said Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney. "It was a terrible accident."
The 48-year-old man's torso was run over, and he suffered broken ribs a bruised lung. He was released from the hospital Monday morning while the 36-year-old woman who was hit remains hospitalized with a leg injury and a broken finger.
Both victims are from Hempstead.
Police say Walpole had parked his vehicle close to the short in an area where cars usually don't go because he was chasing out a large crowd from the ocean, after lifeguards had gone off duty.
Walpole was taken to a hospital as well to be evaluated for trauma. Authorities say he was given a Breathalyzer test five hours after the accident, and his blood alcohol content was 0.00. An officer who examined Walpole determined he was not under the influence of drugs.
Walpole has been removed from beach patrol pending the investigation.
Police say the case has been turned over to the district attorney's office, which confirms it is investigating.
One witness said she couldn't believe what she had saw.
"I was just walking on the beach and I saw a body underneath the wheel of the police vehicle," the witness said. "I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe I wasn’t seeing the right thing."
It is common practice to drive on the beach in the evening time in the pickup truck, according to authorities. The officer who was driving the vehicle has been on the job for more than 20 years.
A beachgoer from Rockville Centre says she's seen vehicles travel too quickly on the packed beach.
"The vehicles on the beach drive too fast, and I've seen that happen many a time," said the woman, Linda.
The Long Beach Police Department will examine all its policies related to the use of beach vehicles.
It has been at least eight years since an officer struck someone on the beach. In that case in 2010, a Long Beach police SUV was rushing to a water rescue and struck a man sitting in a beach chair, injuring him. After that incident, police began using only ATVs during the busy daytime hours.