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Accused drunk driver charged over crash with FHP trooper who protected Skyway 10K

Authorities accuse Kristen Watts of driving around barricades meant to keep drivers off the highway during Sunday's fifth annual Skyway 10K.

BRADENTON, Fla. — A Sarasota woman faces multiple charges in an alleged drunken driving crash in which authorities say she slammed nearly head-on into a Florida state trooper's SUV that had been called to protect Skyway 10K participants.

Kristen Watts, a 52-year-old from Sarasota, is charged with DUI causing serious bodily injury, DUI with damage to property or person and reckless driving with damage to property or a person. She appeared in a wheelchair for her first court appearance in front of a judge Monday.

Watts is currently being held in the Manatee County Jail on a $52,000 bond. If released on bond, she's ordered not to consume any alcohol or drugs and to participate in random testing.

Credit: Manatee County Sheriff's Office

Authorities accuse Watts of driving through traffic cones and around barricades set up to keep drivers off northbound Interstate 275 on Sunday for the fifth annual Skyway 10K event. Around 8:45 a.m., She made her way through the closed toll plaza on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol in an earlier report.

Seeing the approaching car, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins radioed two troopers and others to have them intercept it and protect the thousands of runners on the bridge. Two of the troopers stopped in the roadway, using their cruisers as physical barriers to keep Watts from potentially plowing into participants, FHP said.

Investigators say Watts' 2011 BMW 335i ultimately crashed almost head-on with the SUV driven by one of the two troopers. The BMW reportedly caught fire briefly.

Damage to the FHP SUV and the BMW could be seen on an FDOT camera.

The 47-year-old injured trooper, later identified as Toni Schuck, has been with FHP for 26 years. During Watts' court appearance, the judge learned the trooper has a serious head wound with a concussion and bleeding that will require stitches. The injuries are expected to cause permanent scarring to her head and face.

Another trooper, a 43-year-old veteran sergeant, was second to help stop Watts' car, FHP said.

Credit: Florida Highway Patrol
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Toni Schuck

"Both have served in the Bay area the majority of their careers and I have personally known both of them for 15 years," Gaskins wrote in an email. "Both are high-caliber and high-quality members dedicated to the FHP and serving the public."

The crash did not appear to be sort of any larger plan affecting the Skyway 10K, Gaskins said. No Skyway 10K participants were hurt.

"On behalf of the Skyway 10K, we are beyond thankful for our law enforcement partners and the trooper who risked her life to keep our race participants safe," event organizer James Judge said in a statement. "We are extremely grateful for the Florida Highway Patrol and all of our federal, state and local law enforcement partner agencies, not only for providing layers of security for this event, but the sacrifices they make every day."

Anyone wishing to contact Schuck may send their thoughts to her attention at the Florida Highway Patrol,11305 North McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612 or visit the FLHSMV and FHP social media pages.

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