Four people were killed early Saturday morning [March 26] when a car driving the wrong way on Interstate 80 collided head on with a Des Moines Police cruiser. Two officers were killed, as well as the prisoner they were transporting at the time and the driver of the other vehicle.

According to a news release, the officers were driving east on I-80 at 12:40 a.m., returning a prisoner from Council Bluffs to the capital city. The other vehicle struck the officers head-on near the Waukee exit at mile marker 117. The Iowa State Patrol is investigating the crash.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie was notified by Police Chief Dana Wingert shortly after 2 a.m. – the “type of call you never want to get,” Cownie told The Des Moines Register.

“These are people who had dedicated their lives to public service and had bright careers that came to a tragic end,” Cownie said.

The officers were identified this afternoon [Saturday, March 26] in an article featured on the Des Moines Register website. Apparently, both officers were young and joined the department within the past few years. He described the circumstances leading up to the crash as a routine prisoner pickup for on-duty officers.

“I don’t know what you could do,” he said. “You’re doing a routine exchange of a prisoner who was nabbed somewhere else … then it comes to a very quick, abrupt end.”

Cownie added he wonders how and why a driver started heading the wrong way on the interstate. He wonders if the headlights were turned off, then said he suspects these details may never be uncovered from the mangled wreckage.

“Those cars were going opposite directions at high rates of speed,” he said. “All the force and momentum just came together.”

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