State Patrol: Distracted driver causes serious injuries for trooper

The trooper vehicle was badly damaged. (Washington State Patrol photo)

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The Washington State Patrol says a driver who was distracted by her dash controls caused a crash that seriously injured a state trooper Tuesday night.

Trooper Michael Patoc was helping the driver of a disabled vehicle that was blocking a lane of eastbound Interstate 90 near West Lake Sammamish Parkway just before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

He was out of his patrol car when it was hit by an inattentive driver, the State Patrol says. The impact crushed the patrol car, sending it forward and into the disabled vehicle. That vehicle hit Patoc, who was thrown several feet.

He suffered serious injuries and was taken to Overlake Hospital. He was treated, then released Wednesday morning.

The State Patrol says a 24-year-old Snoqualmie woman said she saw the trooper's emergency lights but didn't realize it was stopped. She looked down to adjust the dash controls before she hit the patrol car at freeway speeds, the State Patrol said.

State Patrol District Ron Mead said the crash is a reminder for drivers.

“It appears the causing driver in this instance was distracted. It’s important to remember that although cell phones as distraction have been paramount in the media lately, all distractions are hazardous while driving. Our message is simple; When you are driving, focus on driving. This crash was entirely avoidable had the driver been paying attention. I am grateful that as serious as the injuries to the trooper are, they aren’t any worse.

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