Photo shows damaged SUV after Florida Gov. DeSantis involved in crash on campaign trail

Florida governor uninjured while travelling to a Tennessee campaign event

Photo from a News 6 source shows the damage done to an SUV after Gov. DeSantis was involved in a crash in Tennessee. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A photo obtained by News 6 shows the damaged SUV that Gov. Ron DeSantis was riding in when it was involved in a multi-vehicle collision on a Tennessee interstate.

The wreck occurred while the presidential candidate was traveling to a campaign event.

DeSantis, who had been sitting in the passenger-side rear seat of the GMC Yukon, was not injured in the collision, according to a newly released crash report.

A campaign staff member who was sitting next to the governor complained of minor injuries but she was not taken to the hospital after being checked out by paramedics, the report shows.

DeSantis was heading to a campaign event in Chattanooga around 8:06 a.m. Tuesday when two vehicles crashed on Interstate 75 ahead of the governor’s motorcade.

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A Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle escorting the motorcade was forced to brake quickly behind the crash, according to the report.

The SUV carrying DeSantis came to a stop behind the THP vehicle, along with two other SUVs traveling behind the governor, the report shows.

But a fourth SUV in the motorcade was unable to stop in time, causing a chain-reaction collision that led to DeSantis’s SUV being struck from behind, according to the report.

The campaign staff member was the only one of the nine occupants in the four SUVs who complained of injuries, the crash report shows, and all were wearing seatbelts.

A photo of the SUV that carried DeSantis appears to show body damage to the vehicle’s rear bumper and tailgate door.

That SUV was able to be driven away from the crash scene. The other three SUVs sustained “disabling damage” and had to be towed, the crash report reads.

A crash diagram provided in the report by Chattanooga Police Dept. shows where DeSantis' vehicle was in relation to the others in the crash. (Chattanooga Police Dept.)

All four SUVs in the motorcade were driven by people who share the same names as agents employed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, records show.

An FDLE spokesperson previously provided few details about the crash, saying the agency doesn’t disclose information about protective operations staffing or assets used due to security concerns.

The crash report indicates all four vehicles in DeSantis’ motorcade were owned by PV Holding Corp., a company associated with rental car providers Avis and Budget. The SUV that carried DeSantis had a Georgia license plate.

An FDLE representative did not disclose whether the state agency used taxpayer money to rent the SUVs for DeSantis’ presidential campaign event.

Under (Florida law), FDLE is directed to provide security for the Governor and other dignitaries,” FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger said in response to questions about whether the agency paid for the Tennessee motorcade vehicles. “The statue (sic) also directs FDLE to produce an annual report providing a fiscal accounting of transportation and protective services.”

That annual report is due to the Florida Legislature by Aug. 15, according to Plessinger.

Representatives from the DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to questions about the SUVs involved in the crash.

DeSantis recently signed a bill that shields the governor’s travel records from public view. That has made tracking the governor’s movements on the campaign trail difficult, as well as dissembling who or what is paying for or staffing his modes of travel.

News 6 recently tracked the plane normally used when DeSantis uses for state business on a trip to New Hampshire at the same time DeSantis was on the campaign trail there. FDLE said the mission was for investigations and flight training, but would not explain what the investigation was, except that it didn’t have anything to do with the governor’s security.

“With the security situation, how you do patterns of movements, if you’re somebody that is targeted, which unfortunately I am, and I get a lot of threats, that could be something that could be helpful for people that may not want to do good things,” DeSantis told News 6 in May when asked about the legislation that exempts the governor’s travel records from Florida’s public record law.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.