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Orange County

O.C. Deputy in Coma Following Fiery Accident

Tragedy: Crash in Dana Point occurs as he and another officer are investigating a shooting. He is in guarded condition after surgeries.


An Orange County sheriff's deputy remained in a coma Sunday after his patrol car crashed and burst into flames during the hunt for a drive-by shooting suspect, authorities said.

Deputy Mike Gaard, 33, who received multiple fractures and lacerations in the accident Saturday, was in a medically induced coma at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, where officials listed him in guarded condition. The 12-year veteran of the department already has undergone several operations, including reconstructive surgery.

Gaard's partner and passenger, Reserve Deputy Henry Gould, 41, suffered a dislocated shoulder and a shattered knee. He was in stable condition at Mission Hospital. Both deputies are married and have children.

Jon Fleischman, a Sheriff's Department spokesman, said the accident occurred about 10 p.m. Saturday as Gaard and Gould were investigating a drive-by shooting in San Clemente. No one was wounded in the shooting.

The deputies were assigned to a K-9 unit when their patrol car collided with a minivan at Pacific Coast Highway and Camino Capistrano in Dana Point. Fleischman said that Gaard tried to veer from the van before they hit.

The police car rolled several times, sailed about 20 feet and caught fire on an embankment. Other deputies put out the blaze and removed their injured colleagues from the wreckage. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

"Having seen the vehicle," Fleischman said, "it is a miracle that the two deputies are alive."

Authorities said that Gaard suffered some swelling of the brain and was placed in a medically induced coma to relieve the condition. His status has improved from critical to guarded. He is expected to remain in the coma for some time, authorities said.

Two of the four occupants of the van received broken bones. They also were treated at Mission Hospital.

The sheriff's patrol dog was unhurt.

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