Canine is ‘OK but shaken up’ after van rear-ends K-9 sheriff’s unit in gorge; 2 others injured

Damage to a Mojave County Sheriff's K-9 vehicle after it was hit from behind, Virgin River Gorge, Ariz., May 12, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A van crashed into a Mojave County Sherrif K-9 unit with the dog inside while it was parked on the shoulder of south Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge Thursday night.

Damage to a van after it collided with the back of a Mojave County Sheriff’s K-9 vehicle, Virgin River Gorge, Ariz., May 12, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department, St. George News

While distressing for the dog, it was also an intense situation for their handler, who was outside the vehicle at the time but had to jump over a median to avoid his own vehicle after it was hit.

The crash did leave two of the occupants of the van injured, and each had to be transported by ambulance from the scene.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the incident happened at around 10:30 Thursday night and blocked the right lane of southbound I-15 for about an hour.

Anita Mortensen, Mojave County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said the deputy had stopped to assist a motorist and was wrapping up at the scene when a white van struck the backside of the parked K-9 vehicle. The crash left the back of the sheriff’s vehicle and the front of the van crushed. Neither the deputy nor the K-9 officer named Brutus was injured.

“The deputy and canine involved are OK but shaken up,” Mortensen said, though both were given Friday off and Brutus will be following up with his veterinarian. “The handler knows his dog and said he needed follow-up.”

The incident drew a multi-agency response along with the sheriff including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the St. George Fire Department, the Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance.

2019 file photo of “Brutus,” a narcotics-sniffing police K9, poses after his powerful sense of smell led to the arrest of two people on felony heroin and methamphetamine charges, Mohave County, Arizona, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Two people in the van were taken away by ambulance, and their conditions are not known. It’s unclear if the driver of the van was cited. The Arizona Department of Public Safety did not return a request for comment.

Mortensen said it did prove to be a close call for the deputy, who was in front of his vehicle when the crash occurred.

“He was able to step away and had to climb up on a center median to avoid injury of being struck by his own vehicle.”

As for Brutus, whose past exploits have included helping to sniff out narcotics and finding an escaped inmate in a chicken coop, Mortensen said he will be fine and will also receive top-notch care.

Brutus is very well known to the community,” Mortensen said. “They all love him.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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