Crime & Public Safety

DUI suspect hits Jeep driven by Bluffton Police officer, causes ‘overturn,’ says Highway Patrol

This story has been updated to reflect new information from the Bluffton Police Department on the officer’s condition.

A Hardeeville man has been charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence after allegedly running a stoplight and striking a vehicle driven by a Bluffton Police officer, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.

The accident occurred around 9:40 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Bluffton Parkway and Buck Island Road, according to S.C. Highway Patrol spokesperson Lance Cpl. Matt Southern.

The suspect was driving north on Buck Island Road and ran the stoplight, Southern said Friday afternoon. At the same time, the Bluffton policeman, identified as Matt Wilfong by Bluffton Police spokesperson Joy Nelson, was driving eastbound on Bluffton Parkway.

The suspect “struck the right rear wheel of the (1996 Jeep Cherokee driven by Wilfong) ... which caused that vehicle to spin and overturn into a ditch,” Southern said.

There was at least one other person in the Jeep with Wilfong, Southern said, and one person sustained an ankle injury. No one in that vehicle, however, was transported by ambulance to a hospital.

The suspect, who was driving an Acura, was transported to the hospital, Southern said, and, upon his release, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license and failing to wear a seat belt.

“Our officer is OK,” Nelson said Friday morning. She said a family member who was in the vehicle with Wilfong was also OK.

Nelson added Saturday that Wilfong did go to the hospital after the accident with injuries, but that he “will make a full recovery.”

Wilfong has been with the police department for four years, Nelson said. He serves as a patrol officer.

The 33-year-old suspect is still at the Beaufort County Detention Center, according to the county’s inmate information system. The system notes he’s being detained with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold.

The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette do not name people charged with misdemeanor crimes unless they are in a position of public trust or authority in the community.