Brooksville police officer airlifted to hospital after chain-reaction crash

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

A Brooksville police officer was airlifted to a hospital as a trauma patient Tuesday morning after a 6-car, chain-reaction crash near the Hernando County Courthouse, authorities said.

The crash happened around 8:10 a.m. at Broad Street and Main Street.

According to Brooksville police, a driver fell asleep at the wheel of his Ford F-150 pickup truck while traveling east on Broad Street and plowed into a Brooksville police cruiser that was stopped in traffic behind four other vehicles at a red light at Broad and Main.

The driver of the truck, Catlin Joseph Nichols, later told officers that he fell asleep after working the night shift Monday night.

The road is marked 35 mph. Police believe Nichols was driving much faster.

“We have witnesses directly in the area and driving right behind him that have already given us statements that no break lights no attempt to stop whatsoever,” said Brooksville Police Chief George Turner.

The cruiser, driven by Officer Meredith Blackman, sustained extensive damage and was pushed into a 1999 Nissan driven by Tisa Thomas.

"You can see her computer was dislodged. The siren box was dislodged. I'm sure she was hit with all that stuff,” Turner said.

Thomas' vehicle was pushed into a 2012 Ford driven Lucille Chwalik, which, in turn, was knocked into a 2011 Nissan driven by Dennis Thompson, which then hit a 2010 Toyota driven by Victoria Conklin.

Blackman was flown to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where she is being kept overnight for observation.

Nichols, Thomas and Chalwick were treated and released at Brooksville Regional Medical Center.

Nichols was cited for careless driving. A blood sample was also taken by police on the scene.