Vice president’s SUV was partially 'airborne' during 2022 motorcade accident, records show

The back end of the vehicle carrying Vice President Kamala Harris “became momentarily airborne” after it struck a high curb during a 2022 motorcade accident in Washington, D.C., that initially was misreported to top Secret Service officials as “a mechanical failure,” records recently released to NBC News show.

Despite the accident, the special agent who was driving Harris’ vehicle, a 2018 Chevrolet Suburban, was granted a waiver from taking a defensive driving training course typically required of Secret Service employees involved in accidents with official vehicles, the records show.

In a memorandum explaining the decision to grant the agent an exception, the special agent in charge of the agency’s Vice Presidential Protective Division wrote that the accident occurred only after the publicly unidentified driver moved 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.”

The new details about the vehicle becoming partially airborne, as well as the training requirement waiver granted to the driver, are in 26 pages of documents about the accident on Oct. 3, 2022, that the Secret Service recently released to NBC News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Along with the memo about the waiver, the records include internal agency emails sharing media reports about the accident and an official accident report that includes photographs of damage to the vehicle's right rear quarter panel.

Harris, who was not injured, was transferred to a different vehicle and taken to the White House.

Shortly after the accident, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged that the accident initially was reported to Secret Service leaders as a “mechanical failure.” That description emerged from radio traffic surrounding the incident, which personnel supporting the motorcade communicated to top officials, he said.

“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.

The incident drew widespread media coverage, in part because of the initial miscommunication, which came at a time when the Secret Service faced criticism over how it had handled past internal communications.

The agency has been scrutinized for deleting text messages surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, prompting an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

In a statement given for the accident report, the vehicle's driver — a special agent whose name is also redacted from the records — wrote that she struck the curb after she “staggered the Limo slightly right” into an open lane while the motorcade was traveling in Foggy Bottom along rain-slicked Virginia Avenue NW and approaching an overpass at 23rd Street NW.

“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.

An unidentified agent’s witness statement included in the report noted that “the rear tire proceeded over” the high curb serving as a divider for a bicycle lane and that “the rear of the vehicle became momentarily airborne” before the SUV came to rest beneath the underpass.

The memo about the accident from the special agent in charge cites agency guidelines for granting exceptions to the defensive driving training requirement on a case-by-case basis.

The guidelines give the example of a driver in a vehicle stopped at a red light who gets rear-ended as possible justification for a waiver, but they also add: “It should be noted that an employee not being found at fault or not issued a citation does not constitute a valid exemption.”

The Secret Service’s press office did not answer questions by publication time about how often such waivers are granted and why Harris’ driver was given one. In his previous statements about the accident, Guglielmi said the driver “overcorrected” before she struck the curb.

This article was originally published on