NEW PORT RICHEY — A Pasco sheriff's deputy caused a crash on U.S. 19 Wednesday that sent him and seven other people to area hospitals with minor injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The crash occurred shortly before noon at U.S. 19 and Limit Drive, just south of the bridge over the Pithlachascotee River. The FHP said Deputy James Dattoma rear-ended a white Daewoo station wagon that was stopped behind a county bus, which was letting off passengers.
The driver of the Daewoo, Cynthia Young of Hudson, as well as bus driver Cynthia Loving and five passengers were injured in the chain collision. The accident temporarily closed two southbound lanes, creating a bottleneck for drivers.
FHP spokesman Larry Coggins said charges against Dattoma would depend on whether he was responding to a call when the accident happened, because such incidents can be chalked up to "the cost of doing business in law enforcement."
Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said Dattoma was, in fact, responding to a call: a report of a man with a gun. He did not have his lights and sirens activated.
"We'll have our own internal investigation into this, which would be common when a deputy is involved in a crash," Tobin said.
Dattoma, 22, complained of a hand injury and injuries from an air bag being deployed, Tobin said. He joined the Sheriff's Office in April 2007.
Linda Smith saw the crash from the front yard of her mobile home. She said Dattoma appeared shaken up.
"At first I thought he was here to help," said Smith, 51. "But then I saw him limping and we told him he better sit down."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.