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UHP trooper's fingers severed in I-80 accident

Published August 22, 2012 4:21 pm

Police • A utility truck hit the 14-year-veteran officer as he was investigating an accident.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Several of a Utah Highway Patrol trooper's fingers were severed from his left hand Wednesday morning when he was hit by a vehicle while investigating an earlier accident on Interstate 80 in Parleys Canyon.

Sgt. Chris Dunn — who has been with the force 14 years — was standing by the open driver-side door of his patrol car when a utility type truck approached the accident scene and struck him, said UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson.

Dunn was flown by air ambulance to University Hospital, where he was undergoing surgery Wednesday afternoon.

Dunn sustained "a lot of trauma" to an arm and particularly his hand, as well as other injuries, which were not considered life-threatening, Johnson said.

Part of Dunn's hand, including several fingers, were severed by the crash, said UHP Lt. Steve Winward.

The trooper's hand may have been caught between the door of his UHP squad car and the vehicle's body at the time of the accident, said UPD Lt. Justin Hoyal.

UPD investigators say the 21-year-old man driving a Mitsubishi flatbed truck reported having experienced difficulty shifting gears shortly before the accident. The UHP unit was one of several parked in an outside lane processing the initial crash; the truck was eastbound in the next lane over.

"The driver said he looked down briefly at the gear shift and drifted into the outside lane, hitting the [UHP] unit," Hoyal said. "Dunn apparently had the door open and was in the process of getting back into his unit" when the crash occurred.

The driver of the truck, though shaken, did not suffer physical injuries, Hoyal said.

No citations were immediately issued. Hoyal said once UPD investigators conclude their reconstruction of the accident, they will submit their findings to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office for screening of charges.

Winward said Dunn was anticipated to be out of surgery, following operations that were anticiapted to take several hours, by 6:30 p.m.

Troopers had been at the hospital throughout the day and they had been checking in with Dunn's wife, who dispatches for UHP, to make sure she and her family were alright, Winward added.

The accident involving the trooper occurred at 8:26 a.m. near Lambs Canyon. The trooper was there investigating an earlier 6:27 a.m. crash in which a van rear-ended a semi-trailer truck.

The driver of the van was flown to University Hospital in critical condition but with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Several other, more minor and non-injury accidents were reported in the same general area as a result of traffic constriction due to the van-semi crash.

Winward noted that Dunn is the fifth trooper to be struck by a vehicle this year and he urged drivers need to watch out for them.

"If they see the red and blues, pay attention, slow down and allow the troopers plenty of space," he said.

remims@sltrib.com

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