Sgt. Mike Krukowski had a short to-do list as he sat pinned in his Minnesota State Patrol squad after a speeding driver crashed through a freeway fence and hit him head on: Call his wife. Call for help. Make a plan to get out if the car caught fire.
Krukowski managed to accomplish all three tasks before he was overtaken by throbbing pain from the broken arm and broken bones in both feet he suffered when a motorist veered off Interstate 35 near 205th Street in Lakeville and slammed into his squad as he drove on an adjacent frontage road.
From his wheelchair, with casts on his left leg and arm and his right foot in a boot, Krukowski looked at the remains of his crumpled State Patrol Tahoe on Thursday.
He said it could have been much worse if he had not been wearing his seat belt.
“That is one reason I’m still here,” Krukowski said as he spoke to the media for the first time since the May 15 crash. “It was pretty horrific. It’s amazing I survived.”
The driver who hit him, Wesley Paul Briggs, 29, of Lakeville, did not survive. He died a few days after the crash, which is still under investigation, said Col. Matt Langer of the State Patrol.
Krukowski, 35, was headed home after attending a graduation that saw two of his former explorers become state troopers. As he always does, he buckled up for the drive home. He constantly scanned the road looking for possible hazards and thought about what evasive action to take should he encounter one. But this time there was no time. He did not see the other driver coming until the last second and braced for the crash.
“You have fractions of a second,” he said. For those who think they would have time to buckle up when danger arises, think again, he added.
With surgeries behind him, Krukowski is expected to make a full recovery and return to the force that he has been a part of for 14 years. And continue being a husband to his wife, Crissy, and a father to his three young children.
When people get hurt, “it affects the entire family, both the nuclear and extended,” Crissy Krukowski said.
In the past five years, 92 squads have been struck while parked on the side of the road and 19 troopers have been injured, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said. An officer hurt in a head-on collision is “very rare,” said spokesman Bruce Gordon.
Krukowski considers himself lucky and blessed, and a living example of the value of seat belts.
He told his story as more than 300 law enforcement agencies from across the state wrap up a two-week “Click-It or Ticket” campaign on Sunday.
Last year, 73 motorists not wearing seat belts were killed in crashes. Over the past five years, 443 unbelted motorists died in crashes. They accounted for a third of the 1,335 traffic fatalities between 2013 and 2017, the DPS said. About 8 percent of motorists do not wear seat belts.