Files show vice president's SUV was partially ‘airborne’ during 2022 motorcade accident

 March 1, 2024

According to recently disclosed records to NBC News, the rear portion of the vehicle transporting Vice President Kamala Harris "became momentarily airborne" after colliding with a high curb during a 2022 motorcade accident in Washington, D.C. 

The incident was initially misreported to senior Secret Service officials as "a mechanical failure." According to the records, notwithstanding the collision, the special agent operating Harris' vehicle, a 2018 Chevrolet Suburban, was exempt from the mandatory defensive driving training course that is customary for Secret Service personnel involved in incidents involving official vehicles, as NBC News reported.

From the Agent in Charge

The special agent in charge of the agency's Vice Presidential Protective Division explained in a memorandum why an exception was granted that the accident occurred only after the driver, who remained anonymous, shifted the vehicle into an open traffic lane “to be in the proper motorcade alignment.”

“As soon as she maneuvered to the right, the lane ended and immediately became a high curb,” according to the memo by the official, whose name is redacted.

“The limo sustained damage to the right rear of the vehicle. No other property damage was incurred.”

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from NBC News, the Secret Service recently disclosed to the news organization 26 pages of documents pertaining to the accident that occurred on October 3, 2022.

Document Updates

These documents contain updated information regarding the vehicle's partial airborne status and the waiver of the driver's training requirement. In addition to the memorandum concerning the waiver, the records comprise internal agency emails disseminating media reports regarding the accident and an official accident report containing photographic evidence of the right rear quarter panel damage to the vehicle.

Harris, who escaped unharmed, was transported to the White House in a separate vehicle. Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged shortly after the incident that it was initially relayed to Secret Service leaders as a "mechanical failure."

He stated that this description was derived from radio traffic surrounding the incident and relayed to high-ranking officials by personnel supporting the motorcade.

“After the protective movement was completed, leadership was verbally updated with additional pertinent facts that the vehicle struck a curb,” Guglielmi said at the time.

Media Attention

The incident garnered extensive media attention, due in part to the preliminary misunderstanding that occurred during a period when the Secret Service was under scrutiny for its management of internal communications in the past.

The agency has been scrutinized for deleting text messages pertaining to the disturbance at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, which prompted an investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

The vehicle collided with the curb when the driver, a special agent whose identity is also redacted from the records, "staggered the Limo slightly right" into an open lane while traveling in Foggy Bottom along rain-slicked Virginia Avenue NW and approaching an overpass at 23rd Street NW, according to a statement provided for the accident report.

“I attempted to maneuver back into the left lane but was unsuccessful as the right rear tire of the limo made contact with the curb,” she wrote.

The driver said the vehicle was traveling at about 25 mph.

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