Police say at around 9:18 p.m., troopers assisted a disabled tour bus that had broken down in the median of I-95 northbound in Guilford between exits 56 and 57. While helping passengers transfer to another bus, police shut down the left lane of traffic for their safety and positioned their cruisers in the left lane with the emergency lights on.
Trooper Joseph O’Connell’s cruiser was stopped in the left lane. He was getting some flares out of his trunk when he saw a car coming toward him. He thinks the car was traveling at about 60 miles per hour.
“It just happened so fast,” said O’Connell. “I tried to figure out which way to jump and I didn’t have to do anything.”
It missed him but sideswiped his car. The vehicle then pulled ahead of the cruiser and briefly stopped, before continuing to travel north on I-95. Troopers later located the vehicle on I-95 northbound, north of the accident scene.
“Driving the way he did and causing that accident it is amazing and I’m happy to say there were no other injuries,” said O’Connell.
The driver, 48-year-old Genaro Claussels, was not injured and admitted to being involved in the crash. He then failed a standardized field sobriety test and was arrested. Claussels was charged with operating under the influence, evading responsibility of an accident and failure to reduce speed/move over for an emergency vehicle. Claussels was held on a $10,000 bond and will appear in court February 21st.
In Connecticut it is the law to move over for emergency vehicles, if you can do so safely.
“They would like you to slow down to below the posted speed limit or whatever’s reasonable,” said O’Connell. “If you peel off just a little bit of speed you’re already meeting the intent.”
This is not the first time this type of accident has happened. In January a cruiser was hit along I-91 in New Haven and another on Rt. 32 in Willington. A police car was also hit on Rt. 3 in Wethersfield in November. All of this serves as an important reminder for drivers to move over for emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road.
“Any trooper will tell you that when they’re on a traffic stop or behind a disabled motorist they’re checking that rear view mirror,” said O’Connell.