A state-owned Chevy Suburban carrying Gov. John Kasich was involved in a minor traffic crash this afternoon on I-71 Downtown.
The officer who responded to the crash was Officer Robert Barrett, the city freeway police officer who Kasich called “an idiot” for pulling him over a few years back.
No one was seriously hurt in the crash, according to Rob Nichols, the governor’s spokesman.
“They got tossed around pretty good, but everyone’s fine,” Nichols said of the state employees inside the SUV, which included Kasich, his aide John Wickham, deputy press secretary Connie Wehrkamp, and at least one member of the State Highway Patrol who is assigned to Kasich’s security detail and was driving the vehicle.
Nichols said Kasich will be seen by his doctor as a precaution.
Sources within the Columbus Police Division confirmed that Barrett was called to the scene to investigate, but when he arrived Kasich was already gone — transported by the patrol — which was at the scene because an “injury accident” was initially reported involving the governor.
It was Barrett whom Kasich thrice called “an idiot” during a January 2011 meeting with most of the state's Environmental Protection Agency employees. Kasich made the reference while rehashing Barrett’s pulling him over in 2008 on Rt. 315 for not moving over for a stopped emergency vehicle with its lights flashing.
The governor apologized to Barrett in a face-to-face meeting in February 2011.
Of Barrett’s assignment to the crash, Jim Gilbert, president of the city's police union, said that Barrett “is a professional law-enforcement officer who will do his due diligence to interact with the governor and everyone involved in the accident.”
Because Kasich was a passenger and not the driver, he wasn’t required to remain on the scene.
The four-vehicle crash occurred around 4:40 p.m. on I-71 north, just south of the Town Street overpass.
According to Nichols, Kasich’s SUV and the car in front of it had both stopped on the freeway in traffic. The vehicle behind Kasich’s SUV had stopped as well, but a charter bus behind that third car did not, colliding into the car behind Kasich’s SUV and setting off a chain reaction.
Kasich was in Zanesville this afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony with Halliburton for the company’s transportation hub in the Utica shale region. Nichols said he does not expect Kasich to cancel either of his two scheduled speaking engagements on Wednesday in Columbus.
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