Texas officer in fatal crash didn't wear seat belt

By David Kassabian
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Officer Down: Matthew B. Thebeau
Related: Why did so many die in accidents last year?

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi police officer who died in a car accident while responding to an assault call last month was not wearing a seat belt, according to a preliminary Department of Public Safety report.

Officer Matthew Thebeau, 25, was southbound on Crosstown Expressway near Baldwin Boulevard about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 20 when the driver of a motorcycle traveling at a high rate of speed started to lose control, police said the day of the accident.

Witnesses said Thebeau appeared to try to avoid a collision with the motorcyclist, but his patrol car hit the center barrier, straddled it and slid 50 yards until it hit a light pole and I-beam supporting a highway sign.

The crash ejected Thebeau from the car and he landed in a northbound lane and was hit by at least one car. He was taken to Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial where he was pronounced dead.

According to the Department of Public Safety report released this week, Thebeau was traveling at a high rate of speed and approached the motorcyclist from behind.

For an unknown reason, the officer swerved to the left, took faulty evasive action and hit the center concrete barrier, a Department of Public Safety sergeant said in the report. The motorcyclist never stopped.

"It's still under investigation," said Charlie Ramirez, a Department of Public Safety spokesman. "The accident reconstruction team still is working on it, which could add additional information."

Police Chief Bryan Smith wouldn't answer specific questions about the report, citing an official 30-day mourning period for Thebeau.

"I am confident that the preliminary results of the Texas Department of Public Safety investigation are accurate," he said in a written statement.

"We await the results of the complete accident reconstruction investigation, which should become available in the next month. I ask that everyone remain respectful of the Thebeau family in their time of mourning."

Copyright 2008 Corpus Christi Caller-Times

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