CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Cheatham County deputy had a close call Tuesday night at the height of the storms that blew through Middle Tennessee.
The young deputy, identified as Travis Sutton, was responding to a wreck on Highway 12. As he approached the scene, his cruiser hit what officials estimate is more than an inch of water on the road, causing his Dodge Charger Interceptor to hydroplane and go off the roadway.
The car reportedly flew through the woods, narrowly missing multiple trees, plunging some six feet below the road.
The squad car landed in a creek that was rapidly swelling with rain water. Sutton was wearing his seat belt and was not injured.
On body camera, the Sutton can be heard talking to another Cheatham County officer who was standing on the creek bank trying to assist.
“I was slowing down as much as I could,” Sutton said.
With water rising above the vehicle’s front headlamps, Sutton pulled himself out of his driver’s side window, climbing onto the top of his car.
“Please Lord don’t let me fall in the water,” the deputy said.
On body camera, you can see the current racing by the car. The sudden predicament caught the deputy off guard as he said to himself, “You got to be kidding me.”
The young officer was carrying 30 pounds of equipment on his back as he jumped from the top of the car across the creek. He landed safely in the arms of the waiting deputy.
Lt. Ken Miller of the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office said Sutton didn’t appear to be in danger of drowning, but anything is possible.
“So had he fallen into the water or lost his footing, who’s to say he would have been able to get back on his feet, or would he be swept down stream? We are blessed. This is where we put aside that macho stuff and he jumped into another officer’s arms. We are very happy to hug each other at that particular moment,” Miller said.
According to Miller, the Dodge Challenger that Sutton was driving had a good traction record in all types of driving conditions and this should serve as a warning for all motorists, including law officers who spend their entire shifts in their cars, to be careful in flooding conditions.
Miller said the deputy was a back up unit and was driving non emergency traffic when he came upon the water in the roadway.
According to Miller, Sutton was not facing any disciplinary action and appears to have acted according to policy while driving and responding to a call. No laws were broken, Miller added.
As a matter of routine procedure, Miller said the deputy underwent and passed a standard toxicology test.
The crash into the stream reaffirms what Miller has often told News 2 – being a law enforcement officer is dangerous and anything can happen at any moment.
“There were two large trees he split and by grace, he was able to get between them or we could be having a very different story here,” Miller said.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. A check with officials Wednesday afternoon indicated THP has not yet finished their report.
Miller said the Dodge Challenger, once pulled from the creek, did start. Whether it can be salvaged is not yet known.