ST. GEORGE — A St. George Police Department motorcycle heading to the scene of a crash was hit by a motorist pulling left when the driver heard sirens on Red Cliffs Drive during on Friday.

Officer examines a St. George Police motorcycle that was hit by an SUV on Red Cliffs Drive, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The officer on the motorcycle sustained minor injuries, mainly road rash, despite visible damage to both the motorcycle and the rear of the sports utility vehicle involved.

The officer, Randall Burtis, was able to stand up and walk after the crash but was still taken to St. George Regional Hospital to be checked out. 

“He was banged up a little bit but was transported,” St. George Police Capt. Jeff Bahlmann, who came on the scene to check on the officer, said.

Because the crash involved a police agency, the Utah Highway Patrol was on scene to handle the investigation. While the crash didn’t block any lanes, what was already heavy traffic on Red Cliffs got heavier. The scene was cleared an hour after the crash.

UHP Sgt. Joe Pastor said a white 2019 Kia Kona with a female driver as the only passenger was traveling north in the left lane on Red Cliffs next to The Shoppes at Zion at around 12:20 p.m. Burtis was responding to a call in the center median, or emergency turn lane.

“She heard the sirens, couldn’t see where it was coming from,” Pastor said. “Traffic was heavy in this area during that time. Vehicles were on her right side and she moved over to the left. Unfortunately, that’s where the officer was responding from, and the officer made a collision to the rear of that vehicle.”

Both the police motorcycle and Kia had to be towed from the scene with heavy damage. Ironically, the flatbed tow truck that arrived was already carrying a damaged Nissan Altima from the incident Burtis was originally heading to.

Flat bed truck tows both a Nissan Altima from a crash scene on Mall Drive and Riverside Drive and a Kia Kona that collided with a police motorcycle that was on its way to the Nissan’s crash site, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Despite the damage to the vehicles, Pastor credited Burtis’ equipment with keeping him safe.

“Thankfully, that officer was wearing safety equipment, a helmet, and his vest, which helped, and he didn’t sustain any serious injuries,” Pastor said.

As for the driver of the Kia, who was uninjured, the decision for a citation hasn’t been determined as yet. Pastor noted that even with traffic, the proper thing when hearing sirens is to pull over to the right side of the road.

“In an emergency response, we’re going to come around traffic to the left — it’s a safe place for us,” Pastor said. “We’ve gotta get to places at times in a little bit of a hurry, but not at the expense of other people’s safety and our safety. So if you hear that audible sound, be aware. Check your surroundings. Look for the flashing lights, and then yield appropriately.”

Pastor said police officers are professional enough that they won’t treat this crash differently than if the person on the motorcycle wasn’t wearing blue.

Officer examines a St. George Police motorcycle that was hit by an SUV on Red Cliffs Drive. The officer was not the one riding the motorcycle at the time of the crash, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“We take on a case-by-case basis. We’ve got to look at the circumstances involved,” Pastor said. “Impartial third-party witnesses have witnessed the scene. There’s always three parts to every story. It’s our job to take those stories from all the parties involved and put it together along with the evidence that we see on the scene and come up with a conclusion.”

Burtis was responding to another, two-vehicle incident at the time near Mall Drive and Riverside Drive. In that case, a 17-year-old driver was cited to failing to yield after hitting another vehicle while pulling out of a Maverik convenience store, St. George Police officer Tiffany Mitchell said.

“Two lanes of traffic had stopped to let her out, but there was a northbound vehicle that she didn’t see and she hit them,” Mitchell said.

The driver of the other car was transported to the hospital with abrasions and cuts.

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