Assistant Fire Chief's Crash Probed

By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Montgomery County's inspector general is investigating the handling of an incident last month in which an assistant fire chief crashed his official vehicle into a police cruiser trying to make a traffic stop on Interstate 270, authorities said.

Assistant Chief Greg DeHaven has been on administrative duty since the Nov. 30 incident, in which his fire department sport-utility vehicle collided with the county police car and two other vehicles. There were no injuries, but two of the cars had to be towed from the scene, police said.

The officer whose cruiser was hit reported detecting a faint odor of alcohol on DeHaven at one point, a police spokesman said. But DeHaven passed an initial field sobriety test administered by two supervisor-level officers. Police subsequently charged him with failure to avoid a collision.

According to county spokesman Patrick Lacefield, DeHaven was then taken to a Fire Department clinic where, following standard department procedure, he was given a blood-alcohol test. Lacefield said the results of the test are confidential personnel information and that a Fire Department committee will consider the findings in recommending whether disciplinary actions are warranted.

Inspector General Tom Dagley said his office has begun an investigation into the incident.

"We're independently reviewing concerns that were reported to us about the accident itself and the way it has been processed," Dagley said. He declined to detail the complaints that led to his involvement, which was first reported last week by the Washington Examiner.

The incident occurred about 9 p.m., when DeHaven was returning from honor guard duties at a Washington Redskins game. Police spokesman Paul Starks said DeHaven was attempting to merge from the local lanes onto I-270 near Falls Road when he collided with the three cars.

A shift sergeant and duty commander were sent to the scene because of the involvement of county vehicles as well as "the suggestion that DeHaven may have been drinking alcohol prior to the collision," Starks said. After the first of three possible checks, they concluded that further testing for alcohol was unnecessary, he said.

DeHaven did not respond to a message seeking comment.

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