CINCINNATI — Only a split-second decision separated a pair of officers from tragedy early Tuesday morning on southbound Interstate 75.
Ohio State Police Trooper Axel Lewis and a Cincinnati police officer had stopped by the side of the highway, both exiting their cars, to help a driver whose vehicle had become disabled. They were standing on the side of the road when another car — rebounding from a separate collision, tires squealing — slammed into the Cincinnati police cruiser at high speed.
The pair vaulted over a nearby concrete barrier just in time to avoid being struck, but video recorded by Lewis’ dashboard camera shows how close he and the officer came to being crushed between the cruiser and the barrier.
“It’s such a close call,” OSP Lt. Scott Kuntz said Tuesday night. “Our officers put their lives in danger every day stopping to offer assistance to motorists. This is what we do, but it’s dangerous.”
The two officers were struck by debris, but only Lewis was briefly hospitalized. He had been released and was recovering at home by Tuesday evening, Kuntz said. The wreck remained under investigation, but authorities did not believe the driver was impaired and had not filed charges.
Although he's grateful no one was seriously injured, Kuntz added the incident should serve as a reminder for all drivers to be cautious on the road and stay aware of emergency vehicles that may be parked with their lights flashes.
Ideally, drivers should change lanes to create distance between themselves and the emergency vehicles. If changing lanes is impossible, Kuntz said, they should drive slowly and be extra observant to avoid striking another vehicle or person.
“Those workers have families," he said. "They want to get home to their families just like everybody else. I came in this morning, grabbed Axel, gave him a hug. I'm thankful he’s okay. It was such a close call."