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Mangled by texting driver, Florida Highway Patrol trooper slowly mends
Eleven months after a texting driver smashed into him, Florida state trooper Carlos Rosario still sees double. His disfigured mouth doesn’t close properly. He can’t raise his right eyebrow. His toes go numb, and he can’t drive. “I’ve learned to be used to the pain,” he said. “There’s always pain.” Rosario, a trooper for 12 years, was left mangled when a 26-year-old driver, glancing down at his phone at 89 mph, lost control as Rosario clocked speeders along State Road 836 in Miami-Dade County. Court records show that Hugo Olivares sent four texts and received six messages in the seven minutes leading up to the crash. When Rosario tried to stop a car in front of him, Olivares couldn’t slow down, spun out of control and hit Rosario as he stood near the road. The 41-year-old trooper suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken arm and a broken jaw. His face was sliced and “opened like the predator,” a sci-fi character, he said. Rosario has no memory of the day, March 17, 2017. He lay unconscious for the next three weeks. Relatives tell him he was responsive to their words and touch, but he doesn’t recall their bedside vigil. With screws, rods and plates in his legs and jaw, Rosario is on the mend today, though he still faces more surgery and months of rigorous physical therapy. Before three mon ths came up, I was already walking without a walker, through the glory of God,” he said. Now he is able to jog a mile, with a few walking breaks. As remarkable as his recovery, though, are his feelings toward the young man who made it necessary. Rosario said he immediately forgave Olivares upon learning he wasn’t a criminal and he was about the same age as his own two sons. “I don’t want him to do any time at all,” Rosario said. “I know the effects of a prison on a kid. I didn’t want the kid to be influenced in any way — I did want him to learn from it.” Olivares was charged with reckless driving with bodily injury. He was sentenced in December to five years’ probation, lost his driver’s license for two years and was ordered to do community service, a punishment Rosario signed off on with prosecutors. In an apology letter to the trooper, Olivares wrote: “If I could turn back time, I would not have used my phone while I was driving that day. There is nothing so important that requires a text message in response while driving.” In his letter, Olivares indicated that he wanted to bring media attention to distracted driving and become a “catalyst for change,” but Olivares and his attorney declined to comment for this story. As a victim, Rosario supports efforts to make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida, meaning police could pull over drivers without needing another reason to stop them. He also believes high school students should be given sobering lessons about distracted driving and its deadly consequences. About four months before Rosario’s accident, the husband of his wife’s cousin was killed by a texting driver in California. “My family got affected twice in the same year,” he said. He had hoped to return to work by March 17, on the one-year anniversary of his crash. But his body isn’t ready. He is still intensively trying to strengthen his muscles and regain motion through physical therapy. Small tasks that most people would take for granted are still challenging: standing up from sitting, pulling up a pair of shorts, pouring himself a cup of coffee. Through the exercises — whether it’s performing mini-squats or tossing and catching a basketball — Rosario improves his lost capabilities little by little. Some routines are tougher, more painful, but he grimaces through the aches and cramps and his limitations. “I could have easily died. I could have become a vegetable,” Rosario said. “But, look, I’m here. There’s a reason.”
Louisiana State Police to get new patrol units
For the vast majority of people who travel Louisiana highways, State Police vehicles are easily recognizable. Many people have grown accustomed to seeing our iconic white Ford Crown Victorias and Chevrolet Tahoes with blue Louisiana boot badges and red lettering. Beginning in February 2018, motorists will begin to see Troopers patrolling our highways in Dodge Chargers. Troopers will be using multiple variations of the new Dodge Charger patrol vehicles across the state to perform day to day duties. The fully marked Dodge Charger equipped with the traditional Louisiana State Police logo and overhead light bar will serve alongside the Tahoes and Crown Victorias as our primary patrol vehicles. New to our patrol fleet will be less visible, semi-marked and unmarked Dodge Chargers. These vehicles will be used to help our Troopers combat aggressive, impaired, and distracted driving. For years we have heard the concerns of the motoring public about increasingly dangerous driving behaviors on Louisiana highways. Unfortunately, the highly visible and detectable patrol vehicles used by our Troopers have often hindered efforts in conducting enforcement related to dangerous driving behaviors. These new less visible vehicles will allow our Troopers to blend in with traffic, and observe and stop drivers who choose to drive recklessly. The semi-marked Dodge Charger will be outfitted with reflective silver lettering and Louisiana boot badge that will be less visible than our traditional red and blue graphics. The vehicle will be equipped with low profile exterior and interior blue emergency lighting instead of the traditional overhead light bar. The unmarked Dodge Chargers will be equipped with blue low profile exterior and interior mounted emergency lights, and will carry no identifiable exterior markings. Despite the fact that the exterior look of some of our vehicles will be changing, the interior will remain the same. Troopers conducting enforcement activities in our fully, semi, and unmarked vehicles will still be wearing the official and highly identifiable blue Louisiana State Police Uniform. These new Dodge Charger patrol vehicles will help Louisiana State Police continue our mission of keeping our highways safe for our citizens and visitors.
208 troopers graduate from New York State Police Academy
Another 200-plus troopers have joined the ranks of the New York State Police. A graduation ceremony was held Wednesday at the Empire State Plaza in Albany for 208 new members of the state police. It was the 206th class to graduate from the Basic School of the New York State Police Academy in Albany. Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at the graduation ceremony and state police Superintendent George P. Beach II welcomed the graduates to the ranks of the nearly 5,000 troopers already serving across New York state. The Academic Achievement Award was bestowed on Trooper Sean Snellings, of Blasdell, near Buffalo. The new troopers report for field duty Feb. 5 for 10 weeks of supervised training.