BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah — A Utah Highway Patrol sergeant has been released from the hospital after his patrol car was struck on the side of Interstate 15 Saturday afternoon in Box Elder County.
At about 2 p.m., Sgt. Brian Nelson was stopped on the side of the road to investigate a separate crash about three miles south of the Utah-Idaho border, according to UHP. A passing vehicle lost control and struck Nelson’s patrol car with him inside.
“If he would have been outside of his car, I think the damages and injuries would’ve been a lot worse,” UHP Cpl. Colton Freckleton said.
At first, UHP was preparing a medical helicopter to pick up Nelson, who had neck and spine pain. He was later transported by ambulance and was released with minor injuries.
“We’re lucky that he was inside his vehicle enough to take that impact,” Freckleton said.
Minutes before his car was hit, Nelson had been telling the people he was helping to stay off the roadside in case someone hit them.
Dashboard and body camera footage shows the moment Nelson’s car was hit — one that could’ve been deadly. It’s something Freckleton said is happening more often.
“I don’t see that the message is getting clearly across,” he said. “I feel like it’s getting worse, and I also think another reason this is happening is because drivers are driving distracted.”
In his five years with UHP, Freckleton has been hit twice. The most recent hit was in August while he was responding to a traffic accident.
“It was pretty scary to think about,” he said. “We were standing there about five minutes before that, and I don’t think we would’ve seen it coming. It was that fast.”
Slowing down is the key, Freckleton said. The woman driving the truck that hit Nelson’s car had seen the accident and moved over to give them space — what she didn’t anticipate was hydroplaning.
“We ask that drivers first reduce your speed and then move over if you have an open lane,” Freckleton said.
In a tweet, UHP Col. Michael Rapich reminded drivers to slow down and move over when they see emergency lights on the side of the road along with a photo of the cruiser with significant damage to the entire passenger’s side. Another vehicle was pictured on a flatbed tow truck with damage to its front end.
“We are so very grateful Sgt. Nelson is going to recover after his patrol vehicle was struck,” the tweet read.