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FHP: Trooper 'seriously injured' after driver crashes into her SUV near Skyway 10K

There were no reports of any Skyway 10K runners being injured.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Authorities say a drunk driver crashed nearly head-on into a Florida Highway Patrol trooper in the final minutes of Sunday's Skyway 10K – not far from where the race was taking place.

Kristen Kay Watts, a 52-year-old from Sarasota, began driving through traffic cones and around barricades around 9 a.m, according to FHP. Investigators say she drove along the northbound lanes of Interstate 275, which had been shut down for race day, making her way through the closed toll plaza on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Troopers sped to intercept her and protect the thousands of runners on the bridge, emergency crews recall. Two of the troopers stopped in the roadway, using their cruisers as physical barriers to keep Watts from potentially plowing into participants, according to law enforcement.

Credit: Manatee County Sheriff's Office

It was a risky move, but something had to be done to stop the car from hitting anyone. 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.

Both Watts and the trooper were rushed to a local hospital to be treated for serious injuries. North River District fire officials, who responded to the scene, said they were brought to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

The 47-year-old injured trooper, who is from Tampa, has been with FHP for 26 years. The other trooper who tried to stop the BMW was a 43-year-old veteran sergeant.

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

Gaskins was the detail commander for the Skyway 10K and says he radioed more than just the two troopers who jumped in to help. In total, he called at least two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers and three troopers to intervene as the driver was speeding toward the race area. He said the initial concern was that runners could have been injured if it weren't for the law enforcement heroes. 

"Every one of them responded immediately and without hesitation.  While the crash was severe, I know the injured Trooper who is currently receiving medical care as I author this email, is absolutely relieved to have been available to ensure the safety of hundreds of innocent persons," Gaskins said.

No Skyway 10K runners were hurt.

Watts was ultimately arrested and charged with DUI serious injury. Asked if there was any belief she intended to drive toward runners on the bridge, Gaskins indicated there did not appear to be any larger plan.

"The driver was intoxicated; there is no indication at this time that her actions were directed at anything specific," Gaskins wrote in an email. "The case remains under investigation."

Watts appeared before a judge Monday where her bond was set at $52,000. If she makes bond, Watts will be under high supervised release.

   

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