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BB police officer recovering from head-on crash

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach Police Officer Erik Hill was injured in the March 3 head-on collision with a car stolen from North Carolina at the corner of 56th Street and Holmes Boulevard in Holmes Beach, following a short but erratic chase of the driver, who was wanted on out-of-state warrants. Islander Photo: Courtesy Joan McArthur

Bradenton Beach Police Officer Erik Hill’s prognosis is significantly better than initially suspected following his March 3 head-on vehicle collision with a North Carolina fugitive.

Amanda Varner, 24, led police on a brief pursuit along Holmes Boulevard in Holmes Beach, after her tag revealed she was driving a car stolen out of North Carolina.

Law enforcement converged on Varner in a shopping center parking lot, but she evaded the containment attempt and drove out of the lot and onto Holmes Boulevard.

Bradenton Beach Chief Sam Speciale said Varner exited the parking lot quick enough to force her vehicle into the outer lane of oncoming traffic just as Hill was arriving to assist the Holmes Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Speciale said Hill made a quick decision to swerve into the open lane to avoid her, but Varner quickly swerved back into her own lane, causing the collision.

An initial MRI performed on Hill indicated his knee had been shattered. The chief said it could have been a career-ending injury, but surgery revealed it was less severe.

“What happened is when they took the MRI, they saw all these bone fragments in his knee,” he said. “But when they went in, they found it was his femur that had splintered and sent the bone fragments down to his knee area.”

While the injury is serious, Speciale said it will not prevent having Hill back on the job.

“He got out of the hospital Wednesday and will be on six weeks of bed rest and rehabilitation,” he said. “Then he will be on light duty behind a desk for six weeks, and then is expected to resume his patrol duties.”

Speciale said it was great news for everyone.

“Officer Hill wants to make sure everyone knows how appreciative he is of all the cards and calls he has received wishing him well and hoping for a quick recovery,” said Speciale, who noted nothing in the investigation has indicated Varner intentionally tried to injure Hill.

“There’s no indication the head-on collision was on purpose,” he said. “She pulled out in an attempt to flee and turned into the oncoming lane just as Hill was approaching. She said afterward that she was scared and lost control while attempting to run.”

Varner was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, one count of grand theft auto, fleeing to elude with great bodily injury to a law enforcement officer and driving while license suspended.

She has several outstanding warrants for her arrest in North Carolina and is being held in the Manatee County jail without bond.

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