For state trooper Allen Thill, the thought of an accident on duty is always there.
“It’s an inherent part of our job; we’re always out at risk on the side of the road,” Thill said on Monday.
For Thill, that thought became reality when he was rear-ended by an alleged drunken driver on Saturday night while he was assisting another officer with a crash on the westbound Interstate 494 ramp to northbound Interstate 35W.
Speaking to reporters on Monday beside his damaged squad car, Thill recounted his close call. Arriving on the scene second, the trooper had come to assist an officer who responded to a rollover. He and another officer blocked off the ramp with their squad cars and lit flares to warn that the ramp was closed.
As he sat in his car, seat belt on, messaging his partner on his laptop, the alleged drunken driver sideswiped the first officer’s car and slammed into Thill’s.
“It was just one loud crash,” Thill said. “Next thing I know, I was pushed forward in a cloud of dust.”
Thill, 39, was brought to Hennepin County Medical Center and was released later that night.
Despite the news conference, Thill couldn’t speak about his injuries because of the ongoing investigation. He is not back on duty.
The back window of his car was shattered and the rear fender smashed.
This was his first time being hit after about two years as a trooper.
On driving under the influence, Thill’s advice was simple: “Drunk driving, don’t do it.”
He also cautioned drivers to take it slow. “When you see emergency lights, slow down. And move over a lane.”
And for those who are on the side of the road themselves, he repeated some age-old advice: The safest place is in the car.
Thill said that he’s not angry with Maurice Blevins, the 39-year-old driver of the car that hit him, that he’s thankful Blevins is alive, able to see his family and that nobody was seriously hurt.
Three other people, ages 20, 14 and 11, were in Blevins’ car, according to the State Patrol. Lt. Eric Roeske said he didn’t know the relationship among the four.
As of Monday afternoon, Blevins was in jail. Roeske said he expected criminal charges to be filed late Monday or early Tuesday.
Kevin Burbach is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.