UHP troopers hit by cars urge caution after dangerous day
Trooper David Brooks woke up Thursday morning as freezing rain was making a skating rink of most of the roads in northern Utah, and thought to himself: "It's going to be a busy day."
It also turned out to be a rather dangerous one for Brooks and his colleagues with the Utah Highway Patrol.
While Brooks was responding to a crash on Interstate 15 northbound at about 5300 South, another car spun out of control and hit Brooks' cruiser from behind while he was inside.
Brooks wasn't injured, but the crash wasn't anything new for him. During his 16 years with UHP, Brooks' patrol vehicles have been hit at least four times, he said. And each incident happened on a freeway during a snowstorm.
Brooks was one of four troopers hit on Utah's roads during Thursday's unusual ice storm, which caused hundreds of crashes on roadways along the Wasatch Front.
"It's not the first time I've been hit," Brooks said. "Hopefully it will be the last, but I kind of doubt it."
It was the first time for Trooper Kristopher Cope, who got scraped up after a car hit him as he was standing outside of his vehicle investigating a crash.
Cope pulled over to check on five or six that had slid off the slippery roadway on 1-15 southbound at about 1000 South. While he was in his patrol car, another driver rear-ended him. Cope got out to check if the woman was OK. While he was walking back to his car, another driver slid out of control, hit Cope's car, then him.
Cope recalls being thrown about 15 feet, while pieces of glass and car parts flew past his head.
"All I could think of was getting myself and everybody else out of harm's way and further down the highway," Cope said.
Only 20 minutes before, Cope had said goodbye to his wife Megan and their 12-week-old daughter. Cope needed stitches on his right hand and has some bruises on his left side, but he'll be ready to go back to work by Tuesday, he said.
Megan Cope said she read online about a trooper getting hit, but she didn't know it was her husband until she listened to messages left on her phone by his supervisors. In a panic, Megan called to see if he was OK.
"It was a relief to hear his voice," she said.
Two other troopers, one in Weber County and another in Utah County, also were hit while inside their cars.
UHP Col. Todd Johnson said that already in 2013, six troopers have been hit by other cars while on the job. That's half of the number of troopers hit during all of last year.
"That tells you we're on a trend we don't want to be on," Johnson said.
It's a relief that none of the troopers hit yesterday were seriously injured, but drivers who don't pay attention, especially during winter conditions, put troopers in danger, Johnson said. He urged drivers to slow down, pay attention to flashing emergency lights and give public safety officials plenty of room.
"They're people just like everybody else," Johnson said. "They have families that they want to return home to."