Connecticut State Trooper injured on the job finally returns to work.

Seventeen months after the incident that nearly claimed his life, Connecticut State Police Trooper Mike Capture129Quagliaroli is telling his own story for the first time and he spoke exclusively with NBC Connecticut’s Heidi Voight. At first glance, sitting at the Troop H barracks, Quagliaroli has no visible injuries. But underneath the uniform, he says, are physical scars from his injuries and surgeries. His retelling of events reveals another invisible injury – memory loss caused by severe head trauma. He can’t remember the accident itself, that night, or any other part of the day it happened- Thursday, August 7, 2014. “The last thing that I actually remember is Wednesday evening,” he recalls. “I had to jump my truck because the battery had died. The next thing I remember was waking up Friday morning in Hartford Hospital. They said, you were in an accident; look up at the news. My story was on TV.” He pieced together what happened in between by reading the accident investigation reports. Around 7:20 p.m., he responded to Interstate 91 North in Hartford near Jennings Road to help a driver remove a large fallen object from the roadway. He stopped his cruiser as a road block and activated his emergency lights as he assisted Enfield resident Aaron Altenhein. Seconds later, a 2014 Honda Civic driven by West Haven resident Ilona Gladu-Perez hit both of the men, with Trooper Quagliaroli taking most of the impact. “I went into the windshield, shoulder-first, my left shoulder, and then when the driver hit the brakes I was sent flying off of the vehicle,” he said. “I landed head first and skidded about 85 feet on the pavement.” Quagliaroli had only been on the job for eight months. Suddenly, he faced potentially career-ending injuries: a fractured tibia and fibula requiring two surgeries and severe head trauma. He spent two weeks in Hartford Hospital, followed by two weeks at an in-patient rehabilitation facility before returning home to begin a year of intensive outpatient physical therapy. “Painful? Absolutely. There were days where I would actually say, 'We have to stop. I can’t go any further,'” he recalled. “But the next time [my physical therapist] came in, I’d go a little bit further and push a little bit harder because I just wanted to get back.” Quagliaroli said the support of family, friends and his fiancée Krystal carried him through those difficult days. Finally, as of January 16, 2016, he was cleared to return to full duty as a Connecticut State Trooper. He spent his first few days back doing ride alongs to get back into the swing of things. Now, “It’s like I never missed a beat,” he said. Gladu-Perez was charged with violating the move over law, enacted in 2009 as a measure to keep first responders and road crews safe. It requires drivers on any highway two lanes or wider to move over a full lane or, if that’s not possible, to significantly and visibly slow down when they see vehicles with flashing lights operated by police, fire, EMS, road crews or commercial tow operators. Violation penalties range from a $181 ticket for a first offense to fines up to $10,000 in cases of injury or death. “Every day not only do members of my barracks but state police troops across the state in addition to firefighters, tow truck operators, DOT workers are standing on the sides of the highways in the state of Connecticut,” said Lt Marc Petruzzi, commanding officer at Troop H. “This makes it possible for my troopers to be able to go home at the end of the night and go back to their families. It prevents our agency from having to deal with a tragedy that could very easily be avoided if people are paying attention and giving us the space we need to do our work.” It’s a law based on deadly precedent. Several Connecticut troopers have been killed on the roads after being hit while standing outside or sitting in their cruisers. Most recently, Trooper First Class Kenneth J. Hall, a 22-year veteran of the State Police and former U.S. Marine, was killed on September 2, 2010 on I-91 in Enfield while making a traffic stop. In Echo Hall at the State Police Academy, the photos and stories of Connecticut’s fallen troopers hang on the wall for all recruits to see. It’s a tribute, and a constant reminder of the dangers of the job. “They always told us in the academy, it’s not a matter of if, but when,” Quagliaroli said. “That was my time. ... But I’m still here.” Note: Quagliaroli has served as a reservist in the Air National Guard for nine years. He deployed to Afghanistan from July 2011 to January 2012. He is a graduate of Windsor Locks High School.

 

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