Injured CHP sergeant home and recovering
The California Highway Patrol Officer hospitalized due to a Dec. 21 roll-over accident on Interstate 80 is home in Truckee recovering from his injuries.
Sgt. Shon Harris, 39, was responding to an accident on westbound Interstate 80 when he and three other vehicles encountered ice on the roadway, not a diesel spill as investigators had believed, near Hirschdale on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 21, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Skeen.
“I was going to a call, a rollover ironically,” said Harris, when he stepped on his brakes on the roadway and realized “suddenly I’m not stopping.”
“I was at the mercy of the ice,” Harris said.
He didn’t want to cause a collision with another vehicle so he turned his steering wheel to the right, sending his Dodge Durango off the right shoulder of the interstate, where the SUV rolled several times, he said.
Harris was transported by helicopter to Renown Health center, formerly Washoe Medical Center, in Reno, where he was treated and released on Dec. 26, he said.
Doctors told Harris it will be six to eight weeks before he can get back to normal. He suffered a partially collapsed lung, a few broken ribs, one broken vertebra, torn ligaments in his shoulder, and cuts on his hand from the accident, he said.
Without question, having a seatbelt on during the accident saved his life, Harris said. Having always been an advocate for seatbelt safety, he said, now he can speak from experience.
Skeen said it was “lucky” there were no passengers riding in Harris’s SUV during the accident because with the amount of damage to the vehicle on the passenger’s side “it could have been fatal.”
Skeen was in Reno when he received the call informing him Harris was headed to the hospital, he said. Skeen said he was able to visit Harris while he was still in the emergency room.
Harris said personnel from the Truckee Police Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol also came to visit him while he was hospitalized.
“The community up here has been great,” said Harris, who transferred to the Truckee CHP office in July 2006. “I’ve gotten cards from people I didn’t even know.”
Harris will be off work for a while and is hoping to make a full recovery from his injuries, Skeen said.
The CHP accident is still under investigation by the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team out of Sacramento, which was called to the scene because of Harris’ “major injuries,” Skeen said. Investigators are working to determine if speed was a factor in the accident, he said.
Two other people were transported to the hospital for minor injuries after crashing their vehicles on the ice-slicked interstate, Skeen said. One other crash occurred, which resulted in property damage without any injuries. He said he did not have details about those involved in the other incidents.
“With the changing weather we advise people to slow down and give plenty of stopping distance between vehicles,” Skeen said.
Drivers need to be “totally focused” on the road and shouldn’t bother with driving distractions such as cell phones when road conditions are dangerous, Skeen said.
Even with four-wheel drive and studded tires, Harris said, people need to be aware when driving in winter weather because sometimes those precautions don’t make a difference.