A Prince George's County police officer suffered serious injuries after he was struck by a minivan following a traffic stop of another vehicle in Forestville, Maryland, Thursday morning.
Thursday afternoon, the policeman was identified as Officer Bashua Olaseha, 26. At that time, he was still in intensive care.
The crash happened just after three officers had finished a routine traffic stop shortly before 9 a.m. on westbound Pennsylvania Avenue near Walters Lane.
As they returned to their cruisers, they saw a black minivan veer off the road toward them, Police Chief Mark Magaw said. The three officers tried to dive out of the way, but Olaseha was struck and wound up under the minivan, which also hit all three police cruisers.
The ground -- made soft by the recent rain -- may have saved Olaseha's life, authorities said.
"The circumstances are phenomenal in this case," said Prince George's Police spokesperson Julie Parker. "This officer dove out of the way. The minivan ran over him, yet he was in that ditch, and being in that indentation probably is what what saved his life."
Magaw said the softened ground let him sink into the soil instead of taking the direct impact of the minivan's engine.
Olaseha was airlifted from the scene. He is in stable but serious condition at Prince George's Hospital Center, where dozens of officers and civilians from the department showed up to demonstrate their support.
They were relieved to learn his injuries were not as serious as originally thought.
"This morning has been a harrowing event for this entire police department," Magaw said.
Olaseha has been with the department for about a year and a half, and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.
The driver of the minivan was also brought to the hospital, in unknown condition.
It may take weeks to determine whether charges should be filed. Police are investigating what caused the driver to veer toward the officers and how fast the minivan was traveling. Magaw said it destroyed the three Crown Victorias.
Drivers in Maryland are required by law to try to move over when they see emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road.
The intent of the 'move over' law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, firefighters, and emergency rescue personnel working on Maryland roads.
The law requires drivers approaching from the rear of a stopped emergency vehicle -- when its lights are activated -- to change into an available lane not next to the emergency vehicle. However, drivers should only change lanes if it's safe to do so.
When there is no available lane for drivers to move into, such as on a single-lane road, drivers are required to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed as they pass the emergency scene.
Violation of the 'move over' law is a primary offense punishable by a fine of $110 and one point on your driver's license. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.
Last October, Maryland state trooper Christopher Hall was injured when his cruiser was struck by a car as he investigated a crash on the Baltimore Beltway.