Two Des Moines police officers were killed Saturday morning after a horrific car crash along Interstate 80 near Waukee, Iowa. Tosha Nicole Hyatt and another unnamed individual were also killed.
As reported by the Des Moines Register, Officers Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente-Morales were transporting a prisoner from Council Bluffs to Des Moines when the accident happened. According to the Iowa State Patrol, they were traveling eastbound around 12:30 a.m. when another vehicle driving the wrong way smashed head-on into the officers’ SUV.
The prisoner, who was also killed, has been identified as 32-year-old Tosha Hyatt. The driver of the other vehicle is also confirmed dead, but authorities have not yet released the person’s identity pending family notification.
According to investigators, the other vehicle involved in the accident was a Ford Taurus traveling toward oncoming traffic on the interstate’s eastbound lanes. It has not been determined how fast the vehicles were traveling.
Witnesses to the crash say the Taurus burst into flames when it slammed into the officers’ SUV near mile marker 117. All four were declared dead at the scene and their bodies were transported to the state medical examiner’s office.
Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert spoke with the press Saturday morning.
“This is a very sad day for the Des Moines Police Department … Words cannot describe the loss to our organization. We face a nightmare that no one ever wants to experience. Please keep the Des Moines Police Department and the families of the victims in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days.”
Des Moines Police spokesperson Sergeant Paul Parizek said both Farrell and Puente-Morales just graduated from the Des Moines Police Academy in October, but quickly earned the trust and respect of other officers.
“Respect in this organization isn’t just handed out, you have to earn it. And both Carlos and Susan earned more than their fair share, starting out in the academy, then coming back out onto the street. And then performing at the level they did.”
Before joining the Des Moines Police Department, Susan Farrell worked for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Sergeant Brandon Bracelin with the sheriff’s office said Farrell could always be counted on whenever a serious situation occurred and was well-respected among her peers. She took the job with Des Moines shortly after being promoted to deputy.
In December, 2008, Carlos Puente-Morales graduated from the 225th Basic Academy at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and had also served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Before coming to the Des Moines Police Department, he had served as deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and was also a former officer in Ottumwa.
“Officer Puente-Morales was a dedicated professional who was always willing to lend and a hand to those in need. He will be missed by his fellow officers and employees of the Ottumwa Police Department,” Ottumwa Police Chief Tom McAndrew told Channel 13 News. “Our sympathy goes out to Carlos’s family and friends.”
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds issued a statement after hearing the Des Moines police officers had been killed. Both extended sympathy to the families of the officers as well as others affected by the accident. The governor’s office will be requesting flags be lowered to half-staff later in the week.
In the last 10 years, only two other Des Moines police officers have died in the line of duty. In 2008, Officer Roger Hildreth suffered a heart attack while exercising in the police department’s gym. Officer Sean Wissink was killed while driving his patrol car to a training exercise in 2007. Prior to Wissink’s death, no other officers had died while serving in over 30 years.
The tragic crash that killed two Des Moines police officers and the other two individuals is still under investigation by the Iowa State Patrol. Officers Farrell and Puente-Morales, as well as the wrong-way driver, were wearing their seatbelts. It is not yet clear if Hyatt was wearing one.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]