By Lauren Stanforth Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
NORTH GREENBUSH, N.Y. — State troopers Brent Karow and Shane Swartz responded in the pre-dawn hours Sunday to a crash on Interstate 90 that involved a motorist allegedly distracted by his cell phone.
An hour later they were still at the scene assisting two tow truck company employees who responded to pull the car out of the median when a drunk driver went off the roadway and crashed into the State Police vehicle, the troopers and the tow truck company owner, State Police said.
Despite Karow being thrown 70 feet into the snowy median, and Swartz being pinned under the tow truck, the troopers are in serious, but stable, condition — albeit with a long road of recovery ahead.
“This case has one subject on his phone who crashes who we have to go help, and then another subject under the influence of alcohol who crashes into our troopers and a tow truck driver,” said State Police Troop G Commander Major Robert Patnaude at a press conference Sunday.
“You’re driving a 3,000-pound vehicle that is a dangerous weapon and people take it too lightly,” Patnaude said.
State Police have charged 26-year-old Christopher Neumann of Castleton-on-Hudson with first-degree vehicular assault, a felony, and driving while intoxicated.
Police said despite the troopers closing the left lane with flares, Neumann’s 2010 Mercury sedan veered off the roadway and hit the back driver’s side of the troopers’ vehicle around 5:15 a.m. Sunday. Neumann’s vehicle then swung around and hit the two troopers and tow truck company owner Jeffrey Waite Sr.
Waite was pinned under the tow truck along with trooper Swartz. Neumann’s car then was propelled up the tow truck loader, which was in an incline position.
Patnaude said if the tow truck wasn’t there, some of the men might have been hit again by the suspect’s out-of-control vehicle.
#EXCLUSIVE – “I thought he was dead, I really did.” – Hear from the brother of the tow truck driver injured in the I-90 crash that also seriously hurt 2 @nyspolice troopers, after the #Oscars on @WTEN pic.twitter.com/7KQjilMpxF
— Lauren Linder (@lauren_linder) March 5, 2018
A second tow truck employee was hit with debris from the accident.
Karow, 34, has been a trooper for six years. He suffered fractures and internal bleeding and was listed in serious, but stable, condition in Albany Medical Center Hospital’s intensive care unit Sunday afternoon after surgery.
Swartz, 34, also sustained fractures and internal injuries and was in surgery Sunday afternoon that was expected to take six to seven hours. Swartz, who has been a trooper for the last four years, works out of the Brunswick State Police barracks. Karow works out of the Guilderland barracks.
Waite suffered a severe cut to his head and was admitted to Albany Medical Center.
Neumann suffered a cut to the face and other minor injuries and was treated and released into State Police custody. He had his blood drawn to provide a blood-alcohol level; Patenaude did not release the results.
Patnaude said State Police are now investigating Neumann’s whereabouts before the crash, to “try to find out what he was up to all night, and what put him in that position to almost kill our troopers.”
Neumann was arraigned in Town of North Greenbush court Sunday afternoon and sent to the Rensselaer County Jail without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Friday. While he grew up in Castleton-on-Hudson, Neumann’s Facebook page says he currently resides in Albany.
Sunday’s accident brought to mind the October 2016 death of trooper Timothy Pratt. Pratt was accidentally killed by a motorist after he had crossed the street near the State Police barracks in Wilton to assist a stopped tractor trailer, also just as the sun was rising.
“(The troopers) are going to have a big struggle to get healthy and get back to work,” Patnaude said about Sunday’s victims. “But they are going to survive.”
Christopher Neumann, accused of driving drunk and crashing into a state police cruiser and seriously injuring two troopers on I-90 early this morning was just arraigned in North Greenbush town court. @dlevywnyt will have the latest at 6pm on @WNYT. pic.twitter.com/sVGfqFIC1X
— Kevin Montano (@KevinMontano) March 4, 2018
©2018 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)