A canine that dashed onto a Tennessee interstate is believed to have triggered a series of car collisions, resulting in damage to four sports utility vehicles (SUVs) being employed to transport Governor Ron DeSantis to a presidential campaign function in the previous week, according to exclusive video footage obtained by News 6. The wreckage left law enforcement officials in awe, as a Chattanooga police officer could be heard remarking, “If this ain’t a full-blown [expletive] disaster.” The Chattanooga Police Department provided the video to News 6 following a public disclosure request. The footage captures the aftermath of the crash, displaying three of the four rented SUVs, which were utilized by agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to accompany the governor to a private campaign gathering that took place on July 25.
Records demonstrate that the white GMC Yukon, which Governor DeSantis was riding in during the incident, had been driven away from the crash site prior to the arrival of the first Chattanooga police officer equipped with a body-worn video camera. This officer arrived at the scene approximately 24 minutes following the collision. “(DeSantis) already left the scene,” the officer explained in a phone conversation with an unidentified person. “They got him out of here as soon as it happened.” Upon the arrival of the Chattanooga police officers, several Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers, including the one who was leading Governor DeSantis’s motorcade in a marked THP patrol vehicle, were present.
As captured in the video, a THP trooper requested that a Chattanooga police officer handle the crash investigation due to the indirect involvement of a THP vehicle in the incident. The Chattanooga officer remarked to a colleague that involving another agency in the investigation would “look better.” THP representatives have failed to provide a response to the questions posed by News 6, regarding whether they authorized Governor DeSantis’s vehicle to depart from the collision site. A spokesperson from the Chattanooga Police Department informed News 6, “There were no citations issued and there are no outstanding concerns that require further investigation.”
The records reveal that the three other SUVs in the governor’s motorcade, which remained on the interstate, were heavily damaged and had to be towed away. During the crash investigation, an FDLE agent expressed his astonishment, exclaiming, “What a frigging morning. What a way to start the day. I’m going to be hearing about this all day.” Police statements conveyed at the crash scene indicate that a dog allegedly darted onto Interstate 75, resulting in two cars colliding. The THP patrol vehicle, leading Governor DeSantis’s motorcade, promptly braked in order to avoid colliding with the stationary vehicles. The SUV carrying the governor, which was trailing behind the THP vehicle, also came to a halt. The report states that the two other vehicles within the motorcade were able to brake in time; however, the SUV situated at the rear failed to stop. Consequently, a chain reaction collision occurred, causing damage to all four SUVs.
Despite the impact, Governor DeSantis and the seven FDLE agents accompanying him were unharmed. A campaign aide seated next to the governor documented minor injuries, yet declined hospitalization after being examined by a paramedic. “At least we didn’t kill anybody,” expressed an FDLE agent in a conversation captured on police video. A photo obtained by News 6 illustrated the relatively minor damage sustained by the GMC Yukon’s tailgate and rear bumper after it arrived at the presidential campaign event. In contrast, the police video showcases the extensive damage endured by the other three SUVs left behind at the crash scene.
According to statements made in the video, all four SUVs in Governor DeSantis’s motorcade were rented from Avis. Two FDLE agents furnished copies of the rental agreements to a Chattanooga police officer. A THP trooper informed this officer that some FDLE agents were taken to a nearby airport after the crash to rent additional vehicles. Nevertheless, last week, an FDLE representative refused to disclose whether taxpayer funds were employed to rent the SUVs for Governor DeSantis’s presidential campaign event. In accordance with Florida law, FDLE is obliged to provide security for the governor and other dignitaries. Annual reports must be submitted to the Florida Legislature by August 15, which outline a comprehensive fiscal account of the transportation and protective services provided by FDLE.
Notably, representatives from DeSantis’s presidential campaign have opted not to respond to questions pertaining to the payment for the damaged rental vehicles. Governor DeSantis recently endorsed legislation that restricts public access to his travel records. Consequently, tracking the governor’s campaign itinerary and determining whether taxpayer money supports his campaign has become increasingly challenging.