Trooper cadet stops wrong-way driver on I-5 near Southcenter

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) - A Washington State Patrol cadet got a lesson from the school of hard knocks when he rammed a wrong-way driver to stop the woman who had traveled south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 from Seattle.

"Amazing job," Trooper Chris Webb said about cadet Joseph DePalma who was at the wheel under the supervision of veteran Trooper Richard Bjorkman.

Bjorkman told DePalma to deliberately hit the wrong-way SUV. DePalma pushed it into a guardrail on a ramp at Highway 518 at Tukwila.

The driver, a 19-year-old Tacoma woman, was arrested for investigation of drunken driving and probably other charges, Webb said.

The patrol received numerous calls about the wrong-way driver around 4 a.m. Friday and moved troopers to respond, Webb said.

The SUV hit a car on the freeway in Seattle with minor damage and also hit another Washington State Patrol car before she was stopped 100 yards later. That trooper was taken to a hospital to have minor injuries checked as a precaution, Webb said. The patrol car had severe damage.

The wrong-way driver traveled a total of about 8 miles before trying to leave the freeway.

"We don't know if she deliberately planned to go up the ramp or just didn't know where she was," Webb said.

She had been driving at less than freeway speed and was considerably slower when she was rammed.

DePalma was just two weeks into field training with a veteran officer when he was told to intentionally hit the car. He used the push bars on the bumper and there was little damage to that patrol car.

"The cadet did as he was told and did a great job," Webb said.

There were other cars on the ramp that were in the path of the SUV if it had been allowed to continue.

The wrong-way driver didn't know what was going on.

"She faulted the trooper for running into her," Webb said.