COMMERCE CITY, Colo Four first responders two Commerce City police officers and two Adams County firefighters are recovering after they were hit by a suspected impaired driver while investigating a separate DUI crash in Commerce City Thursday night.
Law enforcement said in an update Friday that one police officer and one firefighter are still in the hospital.
“Being a firefighter today, walking into burning buildings is not the danger of the job anymore. It’s being on the highway,” said South Adams County Fire Chief Ken Koger. “This has got to stop. I don’t know what we have to do. But it’s going to change.”
The initial crash happened on westbound Interstate 76 near MP 13, according to the Commerce City Police Department. A firetruck was blocking two lanes of traffic, but drivers could pass westbound on the right shoulder.
The four first responders involved in the crash were in one of the closed lanes near a Commerce City patrol car when the second suspected impaired driver drove on the left shoulder around the firetruck and onto the closed lane, hitting the four first responders.
“This driver, for whatever reason, found a small opening between the left shoulder and the back of the fire apparatus and decided to go around the left instead of the right, at which time he struck the four individuals who were working,” said Commerce City Police Chief Darrel Guadnola.
The first responders were not identified during Friday’s press conference. One firefighter has been with the department for seven years, while the other has been with the department for four years, according to Koger.
According to Guadnola, the officer who is still in the hospital is a 30-year-old man and has been with the department for two years. The second officer, who suffered minor injuries, is a 33-year-old woman and has been with the department for five years.
“The cruel irony in this entire thing was they were investigating another DUI collision when this DUI collision occurred,” said Joanna Small, public information officer for the Commerce City Police Department.
Colorado State Patrol alone investigated 251 impaired crashes in Adams County in 2022. Earlier this year, Trooper Kevin Bagley fell 30 feet from the road after a suspected drunk driver nearly crashed into him in Adams County. Bagley survived the fall.
“We are doing everything we possibly can. We are blocking the roads, we have got giant vehicles, we’ve got people directing traffic, we have cones, and this is still not enough that we cannot keep people out of these zones where they’re hurting our personnel,” said CSP Trooper Gary Cutler.
Benjamin Winters, 24, of Brighton was arrested for the crash and now faces felony vehicular assault and DUI charges.
“There are way too many ways out there that you can get a ride share, a friend, stay somewhere. But if you’re going to drink, we absolutely cannot be getting out behind the wheel and actually going out there and hurting people. These people have families, they have co-workers. This doesn’t just affect one person. It’s an entire community when this happens.” said Cutler.
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