WASHINGTON — Germany's defense minister suffered cuts on his forehead and foot Tuesday when the car he was in was hit by a deploying security barrier as his entourage entered the Pentagon grounds.
A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Tim Blair, said Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping and Germany's defense attache in Washington, Army Brig. Gen. Peter Goebel, were treated for minor injuries at Arlington Hospital in suburban Virginia and released.
Scharping received several stitches in his foot, and his eyesight was checked, Blair said. The spokesman said Goebel suffered a bloodied nose.
Scharping and his delegation were arriving at the Pentagon for a meeting with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. The car carrying Scharping and Goebel was moving through a security guard station when a steel barrier popped out of the ground, struck the car from below and lifted it slightly into the air, said Detlef Puhl, a German Defense Ministry spokesman who was riding in a car behind Scharping's.
Pentagon spokesman Kevin Bacon described Scharping as shaken but stable shortly after the accident. Puhl said Scharping got out of the car and lay down on the ground. Cohen, waiting on the Pentagon steps to greet the minister, rushed to his side.
Bacon said Scharping was taken to Cohen's office, where he phoned his family in Germany and was attended by a U.S. military physician. Scharping's glasses were broken. He and Goebel were then taken to the hospital for precautionary tests.
An American security agent also suffered minor injuries, including an abrasion on his chin, Bacon said.
Bacon said the security barrier had been placed in "parade mode," meaning it was electronically locked into position so it would not pop up while the German delegation drove through the guard area. He said it was not immediately clear why the barrier popped up anyway, but Cohen ordered a thorough investigation.
"This was a serious, possibly tragic, situation," Bacon said, expressing Cohen's demand that such accidents not be repeated.
The Pentagon has had occasional past problems with the security barriers. In September 1998, a car carrying Japan's defense minister was struck by the same pop-up barrier. The minister injured his ankle and was taken to a hospital. President Clinton called the minister to express his concern.
Last January, a car carrying members of a Chinese military delegation was struck by a barrier, although Bacon said that situation was different because the driver of the car was following too closely behind a lead car. No one was injured in that case.